Red-hot Mets eye sweep of Cardinals

To say the Mets have gotten incredible pitching against the Cardinals would be an understatement. New York hopes Dillon Gee can keep the momentum going this afternoon and pitch his club to its first four-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in over 26 years.

New York has allowed just one run over the first three games of this set and none from its starters. Johan Santana pitched the franchise's first no-hitter in Friday's 8-0 series-opening win and R.A. Dickey followed that up with a seven-hit shutout on Saturday.

It was Jon Niese's turn on Sunday and he pitched six scoreless innings to key a 6-1 victory that pulled the Mets into a virtual tie with the Nationals and Marlins for first place in the National League East.

Niese scattered six hits and set a new career high with 10 strikeouts as the Mets won for the seventh time in nine games.

"This is incredible. To throw a no-hitter one night, then a complete-game shutout the next night and do what Niese did tonight, I think it says a lot," said Mets catcher Josh Thole.

The Cardinals ended their scoreless drought at 26 straight innings on Adron Chambers' RBI single in the eighth inning, but still suffered their season- high fifth straight loss after Jake Westbrook allowed five runs in his five- plus inning start.

St. Louis has also lost eight of 10 and is on its longest skid since a seven- game losing streak from June 10-17 of last year. The Cards now sit at .500 on the season (27-27) and third in the NL Central, 3 1/2 games back of the front- running Reds.

"It's a little bit of everything," Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran said of his team's offensive struggles. "I think they're pitching great, we're not hitting the ball, we're not getting on base, we're not playing good defense, we're not pitching well. What can I say?"

The Mets haven't swept the Cardinals in four games since doing so in St. Louis from April 24-27, 1986 and will hope Gee can build off a decent outing last time out.

The right-hander had won consecutive starts before not factoring into a 10-6 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday. Gee himself only allowed two runs on six hits and a walk while striking out five in 6 2/3 innings.

Gee, though, pitched very well in his lone previous encounter with the Cardinals, getting a victory on July 19 of last year at home with seven innings of two-run, three-hit ball.

The 26-year-old is 4-3 with a 4.69 earned run average in 10 starts this season and is moving up a day to take the place of Jeremy Hefner, who the club is pulling back in case Santana needs more rest following his career-high 134- pitch gem on Friday.

The Cardinals turn to Kyle Lohse, who is 0-4 lifetime in five career starts in New York. That has led to a 2-4 lifetime record versus the Mets in nine outings with a 5.91 ERA.

The right-hander has not factored into the decision of his past four starts since a win at Arizona on May 9. He has allowed five runs twice in that span, including Wednesday in Atlanta, where Lohse lasted five innings and two of the nine hits he gave up were first-inning home runs.

"I didn't feel like my stuff was terrible," Lohse told the Cardinals' official website. "Just certain things weren't going my way."

Lohse, 33, is 5-1 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 outings this year.