NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard kept it close, manager Terry Collins won a pair of replay challenges and the New York Mets threw out three runners on the bases.They just didnt do quite enough to beat the St. Louis Cardinals.The Mets remained stuck in a recent holding pattern, falling to St. Louis 3-2 Tuesday in the opener of a doubleheader. New York has alternated wins and losses for the last 11 games.I dont know how many times I got to say it, this is crunch time, Collins said. Say whatever you want, this is the time where we got to win games, string them together, win eight out of 10.Jedd Gyorko homered for the sixth time in eight games, hitting a two-run drive off Syndergaard (9-5). Rene Rivera hit a two-run homer off Carlos Martinez (10-6).The Mets played at home for the first time since the All-Star break and lost in a matchup of NL wild-card contenders. Citi Field was nearly empty at the start, a day after a rainout forced the twinbill.Syndergaard has won only one of his last five starts. The All-Star had a tough sequence in the second -- he got hit in the lower right leg by Tommy Phams one-hop single to load the bases, then made a wild, off-balance throw home on Martinezs comebacker to let a run score.Gyorko homered the next inning.I just think the Cardinals did a really good job of getting my pitch count high in the first two innings, Syndergaard said.There was some series of unfortunate events that happened in the second inning that got my pitch count elevated. And from that point Im just trying to last as long as I can out there, knowing that its a doubleheader, trying to give the bullpen a break, he said.Syndergaard struck out eight in six innings.Martinez left after the fifth inning. Three relievers finished, with Seung Hwan Oh getting his fifth save in six chances.Curtis Granderson led off the Mets ninth with a single but was thrown out trying to tag up on Yoenis Cespedes drive that Pham caught in deep center field.Gyorko was hitless in his previous 10 at-bats when he connected in the third. St. Louis has homered in 16 straight games, its best streak since a team-record 19-game string in 2006.The Cardinals opened a 10-game trip that also takes them to Miami and Cincinnati. They arrived at their New York hotel around 8:30 a.m. Monday after plane trouble, and the rainout gave them some much-needed rest.TWO TIMINGThis was the first doubleheader between the Cardinals and Mets since 1999. ... The Cardinals swept a twinbill from San Diego last Wednesday.26TH MANThe Cardinals recalled RHP Sam Tuivailala as the 26th player for the second game. Hes made three relief appearances for St. Louis this year. The Mets brought up 27-year-old lefty Josh Smoker -- hes made 43 relief appearances for Triple-A Las Vegas, and has never been in the majors.UP NEXTCardinals: LHP Jaime Garcia (7-6, 3.98) pitches Game 2. He is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in five career starts against the Mets. Thats his lowest ERA vs. any opponent.Mets: RHP Bartolo Colon (8-5, 3.48) faces the Cardinals in the second game. He went 0-2 with a 15.58 ERA against them last year. Wholesale Salomon Shoes . "Trying to breathe," he said with a grin. Bernier stopped 42 of 43 shots on Monday night, including all 22 in a hectic middle frame, his heroic performance propelling the Leafs toward an undue point in their final game before the Christmas break. Cheap Salomon Shoes Outlet .875,000, avoiding arbitration. Clippards deal Monday means all eight Nationals players who filed for arbitration wound up settling before a hearing. http://www.salomonoutletstore.com/ . -- Catcher Brett Hayes has agreed to a $630,000, one-year contract with the Kansas City Royals, avoiding salary arbitration. Salomon Shoes Outlet Free Shipping .C. -- When North Carolina freshman Ryan Switzer reported to training camp in August he was a little miffed to learn he was third on the depth chart at punt returner. Wholesale Salomon Shoes For Sale . - The Oakland Raiders re-signed offensive lineman Khalif Barnes on Friday.Ian Botham believes England captain Alastair Cook could play for five or six more years and challenge Sachin Tendulkars all-time Test run record. Cook, 31, became the youngest player to pass the 10,000-run mark in Englands nine-wicket victory over Sri Lanka at Durham.He still has some way to go before Tendulkars record of 15,921 runs comes into sight. Watch Cook become the first Englishman to reach 10,000 Test runs However, Botham said on Sky Sports: I think hes got a lot more runs to come yet, this is just a milestone for him. Hes 31, hes got lots of time to go. In five years, he could be chasing Sachin. Who knows?He is fit enough, strong enough, and we know how mentally tough he is. He could play for five or six more years easily. Its down to him. Its how long he wants to play for.Cook is the 12th player in history to pass 10,000 runs, and only the second opener. This is just a milestone for him. Hes 31, hes got lots of time to go. In five years, he could be chasing Sachin. Who knows? Ian Botham He is also the first Englishman to reach the mark, and Botham thinks he has been helped by his interests away from cricket.He has a young family, his farming, he enjoys country pursuits, he is quite happy to go off on his own. I think that is important, Botham said. It gives you time away from the game and you need that, you cannot do cricket 24/7.Botham also believes Cook has benefited from not playing any one-day cricket in the last few years. Cook says it was a very special moment as he reached the 10,000-run milestone His last one-day international was against Sri Lanka in December 2014, and Botham said: His best Test cricket has been when he has not been playing one-day cricket.ddddddddddddHe is so disciplined and it means he doesnt get caught between the two games. The best thing that happened to him was getting away from the one-day game. After he became the first English batsman to reach 10,000 runs, we take a look at how captain Alastair Cook reached this remarkable landmark. 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