ST. LOUIS - The Mets celebrated the beginning of the season's second half Friday night by adhering to the script they had faithfully followed for much of the first half.
In a 3-2 loss to the Cardinals, the Mets and their woeful offense wasted another strong outing by a pitcher, this time from the electric Noah Syndergaard.
Jhonny Peralta hit a go-ahead solo shot in the sixth inning, just two batters after the Cardinals scrounged together the tying run thanks to a broken-bat blooper and a poor throw by catcher Kevin Plawecki.
Behind a fastball that again registered in the high 90s, Syndergaard bullied the Cardinals, holding them to two runs and five hits while racking up six strikeouts in seven innings.
But Syndergaard's brief hiccup in the sixth was enough to help upend the Mets' chances on a night when a frustrated Mets manager Terry Collins was tossed from the game in the seventh for arguing balls and strikes.
The manager might have had reason to be mad.
Collins watched Curtis Granderson bash his fifth leadoff homer of the season -- off the Cardinals' Lance Lynn -- to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Then, the Mets faltered against Lynn, who had allowed only one more hit when Collins lost his temper in the dugout.
First baseman Lucas Duda ran the count to 3-and-0 against Lynn, who fired a breaking pitch that appeared to cross the plate too low for ball four.
But when plate umpire Chad Fairchild called a strike on Duda, television microphones picked up what sounded like an upset Collins reacting from the dugout.
Fairchild gave Collins his third ejection of the year, drawing a roar from the crowd of 44,540 at Busch Stadium.
Already thrown of the game, Collins got his money's worth, confronting Fairchild with a wave of words. The heated manager nearly turned red as he pointed at the umpire, even going back for a second round after he had made his way back to the dugout.
The Mets began the night two games behind the Nationals in the NL East. But the series opener last night represented the first of 10 straight games against the National League's three division leaders: the Cardinals, Nationals and Dodgers.
"I just think it's fun," Collins said of the challenge. "If you're going to play the game, this is how you should play it, in a pennant race against the three best teams. Let's go. See where we end up. Big-league baseball at its best."
Of course, the Mets' weren't at their best, particularly at the plate. Before the game, Collins benched the veteran Michael Cuddyer in favor of Kirk Nieuwenhuis, a hint perhaps at a diminished role.
Cuddyer has been dealing with a balky left knee, though Friday night, he was a healthy scratch. He was limited to pinch-hitting duty, grounding out in the eighth.
But Nieuwenhuis didn't fare much better. He ended the first half with a three-homer barrage against the Diamondbacks. But he began the second with a forgettable 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Lynn retired 12 straight at one point, quickly brushing past his only mistake, Granderson's 14th homer.
But Lynn didn't enjoy a lead until the sixth, when Kolten Wong led off with a broken-bat single. He swiped second, then moved to third when Plawecki's throw wound up in center.
Wong scored on a Matt Carpenter groundout, setting the table for Peralta, whose homer caught the edge of Nieuwenhuis' glove as he leaped at the leftfield fence.