NEW YORK (AP) — Tyler O'Neill had the simplest of goals in the ninth inning of a tied game.
“Just trying to get the ball in play,” he said.
For most of Tuesday, even that seemed impossible. He figured it out just in time.
O'Neill redeemed himself after setting a Cardinals record for a doubleheader with six strikeouts, beating out a go-ahead infield single as St. Louis topped the New York Mets 4-3 Tuesday night to split their twinbill.
After New York tied it in the eighth, St. Louis drew two walks against Joely Rodríguez (0-2) in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Nolan Arenado struck out against ex-Rockies teammate Adam Ottavino for the second out.
O'Neill then connected with an awkward half-swing for a weak roller against Ottavino. Sure-handed third baseman Eduardo Escobar charged hard but double clutched at the ball, allowing O'Neill — among baseball's fastest runners — to reach first while Brendan Donovan scored from third.
“Anytime you’re struggling or anything like that, you’ll take it,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said.
A season after hitting 34 homers and finishing eighth in NL MVP voting, O'Neill is off to a miserable start, entering Tuesday with a .193 batting average, two homers and a .561 OPS. The coaching staff asked him to take Sunday and Monday off, but the rest hardly seemed to help. He finished the day 2 for 9 with six strikeouts, most ever by a Cardinals player in a doubleheader, according to SNY.
The two-time Gold Glove-winning left fielder also let a foul popup drop in front of him during New York’s eighth-inning rally in Game 2, his second misplay of the day on a ball in that area.
“I feel like I made a lot of strides,” O’Neill said of the days off. “The staff was definitely giving me a mental break, just for everything. So, we’re on the same page, and we’re continuing to work. Continue to get my timing back and continue to improve.”
Marmol was curious to see the net mental effect on O'Neill of Tuesday's up-and-down twinbill.
“It’s going to be a matter of him waking up tomorrow morning, and you can respond two ways,” the first-year manager said. "He can give in, or he could keep pushing.
“I bet on him responding well,” he added.
Giovanny Gallegos allowed one-out singles to Dominic Smith and Luis Guillorme in the ninth, then struck out Mark Canha and Francisco Lindor for his seventh save.
Paul Goldschmidt had three hits in the nightcap as St. Louis played its first doubleheader this year. He also homered in the opener, but Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith helped New York chip away at Miles Mikolas, and Trevor Williams was sharp in a spot start as the Mets won 3-1.
New York tied the late game on McNeil's RBI single with one out in the eighth — one batter after Escobar reached on a dropped third strike. Ryan Helsley (2-0) got Escobar to whiff at a breaking ball, but catcher Andrew Knizner also missed it with a stab in the dirt.
Mets leadoff man Brandon Nimmo ended a 26-game on-base streak in the opener and left the nightcap after fouling a ball off his right leg. Manager Buck Showalter said Nimmo had a bruised right quad and was day-to-day.
Canha and Escobar gave New York early leads with solo homers in Game 2, but St. Louis erased them with Goldschmidt's first RBI double and Tommy Edman's RBI triple.
Goldschmidt made it 3-2 with another double in the fifth against Mets starter Taijuan Walker, who gave up three runs in five innings.
Mikolas (3-2) entered with a 1.49 ERA but allowed a season-high three runs (two earned) over six innings.
“A lot of good at-bats,” Showalter said. “We didn’t strike out a whole lot off him until later on. He’s a good one. He’s got a lot of weapons.”
St. Louis put two runners on against Edwin Díaz in the ninth, but the Mets closer struck out Harrison Bader swinging to earn his ninth save.
Jake Reed (1-0) walked two of his first three hitters but pitched two scoreless innings in his 2022 debut.
Mets: OF Starling Marte was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandmother. ... RHP Jacob deGrom had a follow-up MRI on Monday that showed progressive healing of the stress reaction in his right scapula. The team said he will continue to ramp up his throwing. ... RHP Steve Nogosek was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse and RHP Adonis Medina was added as the 27th player for the doubleheader. ... Reed was optioned to Triple-A between games, and INF Gosuke Katoh was promoted.
Cardinals RHP Jordan Hicks (1-3, 4.15 ERA) faces Mets RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 2.66) in the third game of the four-game series Wednesday night.
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