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09/06/2006 12:45 AM ET
Sanchez, Mets hold off Cards in opener
St. Lucie starter scatters two hits over first six innings in 6-4 win
St. Lucie was able to cling to the effort Jose Sanchez provided over six innings. (Jerry Hale/MLB.com)

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Jose Sanchez tossed six strong innings as St. Lucie staved off Palm Beach, 6-4, on Tuesday in the opener of their best-of-3 Florida State League playoff series.

Sanchez (1-0) allowed a run on two hits and a walk with one strikeout. The 22-year-old right-hander retired the first six batters he faced and the final nine in a row.

"He was outstanding," Mets manager Gary Carter said of Sanchez. "He dominated the hitters and was in total command of his pitches, spotting his fastball around great breaking stuff.

"Sanchez has really stepped up to be our No. 1 starter since we lost some guys to Double-A and Triple-A and that is why he started."

The Mets opened the scoring in the first inning as Fernando Martinez led off with a single and moved to second base on Jose Coronado's sacrifice. Martinez went to third on Corey Coles' groundout and scored on Caleb Stewart's single to center field.

"We've done that all year. You need to be fundamentally sound and can never take anything for granted in the playoffs," Carter said. "You need to score early and plant a seed and that is what we did. We set the tone for the game and the guys were felt a bit relaxed after getting that first run."

The Cardinals forged a 1-1 tie in the third, but St. Lucie came right back with three runs in the fourth. Jesus Flores ripped an RBI double, Alhaji Turay smacked a run-scoring single and Jonathan Malo lifted a sacrifice fly.

Flores, who had 12 RBIs against the Cardinals during the regular season, went 2-for-5 with a run scored. Turay added two hits and two RBIs, and Stewart collected three of the Mets' 13 hits.

St. Lucie came into the game with a 61-1 record when leading after eight innings, but Palm Beach rallied for three runs in the ninth.

Mets closer Pedro Muniz entered with the bases loaded and one out in the inning. He walked Dan Moyland to force in a run before Michael Ferris lifted a sacrifice fly. Ranked second in the league with 31 saves, Muniz settled down and retired Sean Danielson on a popup to end the game.

"It got scary in the ninth, but we were fortunate to hold on." said Carter. "They are a good team and the defending Florida State League champions so you can never count them out. We felt good, but not overconfident when (Muniz) came in. He came through for us like he has been doing all year."

The Mets struggled at the end of the season, losing three of four to Palm Beach in the final week of August.

"The regular season is one thing and the playoffs are another," Carter said. "This team was mentally and physically ready to play. I am really proud of this team and am looking for the same type of effort and gameplan tomorrow."

Palm Beach starter Jaime Garcia (0-1) surrendered four runs on six hits over 3 1/3 innings. He struck out one and walked one.

Luis Cotto went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Rayner Laya also drove in a run for the Cardinals, who totaled six hits.

Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Tradition Field.

Chip Haunss is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.