First-place Cardinals bash stumbling Mets

Allen Craig capped a five-run fifth inning with a three-run homer, David Freese extended his hitting streak to 20 games and Michael Wacha earned his first major league victory in the St. Louis Cardinals' 9-2 thrashing of the New York Mets at Citi Field.

Freese had two hits in extending the majors' longest active hitting streak and Craig went 2-for-4 with his fifth homer of the season, paving the way to St. Louis' major league-leading 42nd win of the year and fourth in five games.

"I think we're just a relentless group," said Craig. "When somebody has some success, the top of the lineup guys kind of feed off it and get that confidence going. We kind of just thrive off each other's success."

Things are moving in the opposite direction for the stumbling and recently reshuffled Mets, however. The team dropped their seventh game in eight contests and own the third worst record (23-36) in all of baseball.

New York demoted struggling first baseman Ike Davis, as well as outfielder Mike Baxter and reliever Robert Carson, following the team's fifth straight loss to league-worst Miami on Sunday.

Seven of the Cardinals runs went unearned, including the five scored in the fateful fifth off Jeremy Hefner (1-6), who tossed six frames but was charged with six runs total. The Mets had just five hits.

"We've got to catch the baseball, we've got to pitch better, we've got to hit better," said Mets manager Terry Collins. "It's pretty much the same stuff every night."

In his third career major league start, Wacha (1-0) shook off some early control issues and turned in a stellar performance with six innings of two-run ball.

Matt Holliday had three hits, three runs scored and an RBI in the rout.

Wacha's first road appearance in the majors got off to a bumpy start, but the rookie was able to strand the bases loaded after surrendering a pair of runs during a 37-pitch first inning.

Omar Quintanilla turned on Wacha's seventh pitch and sent it into the seats in right, and after the right-hander issued two of three walks in the frame around an infield hit from Daniel Murphy, Marlon Byrd lifted a sac fly to center for a 2-0 lead.

Craig seemed a bit woozy after his head whipped back against the right-field wall while making a great catch to end the third, but he singled into right in the fourth to put runners on the corners with no one out.

Hefner was scoreless through three, but forfeited a run on Matt Adams' ensuing double-play ball. Freese then grounded out to end the frame, but the Cards broke through for five runs an inning later.

Murphy, filling in at first for the recently demoted Davis, began the fifth with a throwing error on a Jon Jay grounder. Jay moved to third on a double from Pete Kozma and then crossed the plate on Wacha's groundout to short. The Cardinals then took a 3-2 lead after Matt Carpenter walked and Yadier Molina forced a run in with a groundout.

An ensuing infield hit from Holliday put runners at the corners before Craig cleared the bags with a three-run homer to left, giving the Cardinals a 6-2 edge.

New York went without a hit in its final 16 at-bats, and the Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the seventh on a Holliday RBI single and Jay's bases- loaded walk before Shane Robinson homered to start the ninth.

Game Notes

Carpenter went 0-for-4 and had an 18-game hit streak ... Murphy made his first start of the season at first base. He's made 150 starts at that position over the course of his career ... New York has lost 11 of its last 14 games at home ... Prior to the game, the Mets recalled outfielder Collin Cowgill, pitcher Josh Edgin and selected the contract of first baseman Josh Satin from Las Vegas. Only Edgin saw action on Tuesday, giving up one hit as well as walking in the run in the seventh, although it was charged to Greg Burke ... The Cardinals boast the best road record in the majors at 23-10.