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St. Louis — Rick Ankiel admitted getting a special kick from hitting his first career home run against his old team.
"For me, it was just fun to do it because it was against that team," Ankiel said of his two-run homer in the seventh inning of the New York Mets' 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night.
The 33-year-old Ankiel has only been with the team three days, so he's still learning his way around.
"I wasn't here but in talking to everybody it just seems like when the pitching was there, the hitting wasn't, and when the hitting was there, the pitching wasn't," Ankiel said. "Hopefully we can all just get gelled together and get going at the same time."
Rookie Shelby Miller followed up his nearly perfect one-hitter with 5 2-3 scoreless innings and the Cardinals scored the go-ahead run in the seventh on a wild pitch.
That spoiled Ankiel's shot to straightaway center off rookie Seth Maness (3-0) for his first homer in 19 at-bats against the team he once starred for as a hard-throwing 20-year-old rookie in 1999 before wildness and injuries prompted a switch to the outfield in 2005.
Ankiel's homer tied the game at 2-2.
"It felt good and it's nice to come in and contribute, produce, that's why they brought me in," Ankiel said. "It's unfortunate we didn't win but for me it's a positive, so I'm happy about it.
"Especially coming here, too, so it's kind of fun."
For manager Terry Collins and the rest of the Mets, not so much.
"We've beat this horse to death all week," Collins said. "You've got to finish it. There's no magic formula, we've got to execute better."
Shaun Marcum (0-4) made it out of the fifth for the first time in four starts since beginning the year on the 15-day disabled list.
"I'm still not where I want to be," said Marcum, who visited a St. Louis chiropractor a day earlier. "The important thing is the team, and we lost, so it doesn't matter what I did out on the mound."
Marcum left the game with two on and two out in the seventh and Scott Rice's wild pitch to pinch hitter Ty Wigginton allowed Daniel Descalso to score the go-ahead run.
Jon Jay and Tony Cruz had an RBI apiece in the fourth and pinch hitter Yadier Molina added a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth for the Cardinals, who have won 12 of 14 and handed the Mets their sixth straight loss.
St. Louis will go for a four-game sweep Thursday with ace Adam Wainwright (5-2, 2.30) facing Jonathan Niese (2-4, 5.93).
Rice bounced a 1-0 pitch past catcher John Buck. The lefty took the loss his previous two appearances, including the series opener when Wigginton scored from second on Matt Carpenter's infield hit off Rice's leg.
Miller labored five days after retiring the final 27 batters with 13 strikeouts in a one-hitter over Colorado.
On Wednesday, he allowed four hits, a walk and a hit batter to lower his ERA to a major-league leading 1.40. Miller had three of his six strikeouts in the first when David Wright bounced a two-out single up the middle to end the streak at 29 in a row and then stole second before Ike Davis fanned to end the inning.
Marcum entered with an 8.59 ERA after getting a late start due to biceps tendinitis and has lost four consecutive decisions for the first time in his career. He retired the side in order on just eight pitches followed by a 10-pitch second, and retired 10 of the first 11 hitters.
Miller went to a full count for the fourth time in six hitters before walking Buck with one out in the second, and Ankiel fisted a bloop single to shallow center. But Buck ran the Mets out of the inning when he was easily doubled off second on Ruben Tejada's liner to center.
Cruz made just his second start of the season and first since April 19 at the backup catcher behind Molina, who was 0 for 11 the previous three games. Molina called Miller's gem on Friday, in which the 22-year-old right-hander allowed a leadoff single to Eric Young and then retired the final 27.
The Cardinals had one hit and one runner in scoring position the first three innings against Marcum before breaking through with three hits and a botched rundown play to take a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
The Mets allowed a run and cut off the relay after Jay's two-out RBI double to the gap in right-center. Jay was marooned between bases when Wright charged hard from third to make the tag and the ball bounced out of his glove.
Jay ended up at third and scored on a single by Cruz.
Edward Mujica worked the ninth for his 11th save.
■ Collins apologized in a fashion, a day after criticizing New York fans who thought he hadn't defended one of his players.
The Mets began Wednesday on a five-game losing streak and with six losses in seven games, and the manager said his words were caused by frustration.
"You know, I'm a human being and I made a bad choice of words," Collins said.
Collins said Tuesday that he wasn't accountable to fans who have "absolutely no idea what goes on."
He'd had no issue with the Pirates plunking Jordany Valdespin during last weekend's series after he admired a home run too long, and he said Valdespin had been aware he'd be targeted.
On Wednesday, Collins complimented the "most knowledgeable fans I've ever been around," and said he understood that drama surrounding the team might be interesting when a team is losing.
He added he hadn't been "baited" into sounding off and wanted fans to know he had faith in his roster.
"Once again, I want our fans to understand I'm working my butt off to get better, period," Collins said.