Eleven years later, Wainwright is on the back end of a stellar career but is still tormenting the Mets by imparting those long-ago lessons.
Wainwright shrugged off a trio of errors committed behind him in a two-batter span in the sixth inning Monday night to retire the final batter he faced and steady the Cardinals, who used four relievers to blank the Mets the rest of the way in a 6-3 win at Citi Field.
"'Waino' (is) one of those pitchers who seems to make better pitches when he gets the heat turned up," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "You're not afraid to let him try and to work through it because he knows how to get out of those situations."
Wainwright and the Cardinals appeared on their way to an easy victory after Tommy Pham's three-run homer capped a six-run top of the sixth for a 6-1 lead.
However, the Mets pulled within 6-3 during a wild six-pitch span in which Lucas Duda homered, Jose Reyes doubled and raced home on a pair of errors by right fielder Magneuris Sierra -- he first misplayed the ball and then overthrew third base -- and Travis d'Arnaud reached second when center fielder Dexter Fowler dropped a routine fly to the track.
"The key is to keep pitching and not let those things go crazy in your head," Wainwright said. "That was something that (former Cardinals closer Jason) Isringhausen taught me, too, from my days in the bullpen as a rookie. Just step back, take a breath and reset and slow the game down. That's something I used here in Game 7 many years ago."
The stakes weren't as high Monday as they were on Oct. 19, 2006, when Wainwright struck out the potential winning run, Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran, on a knee-buckling curveball to close out the Cardinals' 3-1 win in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series across the street at what used to be Shea Stadium. St. Louis went on to win the World Series in five games over the Detroit Tigers.
But the Cardinals (45-47) will have to rely on the steadiness Wainwright showed Monday -- when he bounced back to retire pinch hitter Wilmer Flores on a groundout before giving way to Tyler Lyons, who snared Michael Conforto's liner for the final out of the inning -- if they are to reach the playoffs for the seventh time in his career.
"It's not always a young or old thing -- it's the ability to be able to slow it down," said Wainwright, who improved to 11-5 after allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks while striking out three over 5 2/3 innings.
A quartet of relievers -- Lyons, Matt Bowman, Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil -- combined to blank the Mets on two hits over the final 3 1/3 innings. Siegrist struck out the side on 10 itches in the eighth before walking Curtis Granderson to lead off the ninth, after which Cecil came in and got the final three outs for his first save.
Cecil allowed a single to Asdrubal Cabrera and fell behind Yoenis Cespedes 3-0 before Cespedes hit into a 6-4-3 double play on the next pitch.
"He's the big guy on our team (that) you turn to," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Cespedes. "Got him in a great count, and he's got to get something good to hit. And he just didn't hit it."
Rookie Paul DeJong hit a two-run homer in the sixth to give the Cardinals the lead for good. DeJong has 10 homers in 40 games -- the fastest a Cardinals rookie has reached 10 homers since Albert Pujols hit 10 homers in his first 30 games in 2001.
"That's good company," DeJong said with a grin.
Two batters later, Wainwright laced an RBI double to chase Mets starter Zack Wheeler. Left-hander Josh Edgin walked Matt Carpenter before Hansel Robles gave up Pham's three-run homer.
"It's my fault," Wheeler said. "I should have made my pitches and gotten out of that. But our bullpen, I trust them in every situation. Today we couldn't get the job done when we needed to."
Wheeler allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out five.
Pham reached base four times in five plate appearances via two walks, a single and the home run. Yadier Molina had two hits, including an infield single leading off the sixth.
Conforto homered in the fifth for the Mets (41-49), who have lost two straight. Reyes, Duda and Jay Bruce had two hits apiece.
NOTES: The Mets recalled RHP Hansel Robles from Triple-A Las Vegas and optioned RHP Chasen Bradford to the same affiliate. ... Mets RHP Matt Harvey (shoulder) and RHP Noah Syndergaard (torn lat) each began throwing from 70 feet on Monday. ... Cardinals LHP Zach Duke (Tommy John surgery, flexor tendon surgery) threw a scoreless inning for Triple-A Memphis on Sunday to complete his first set of back-to-back appearances on his rehab assignment. ... Cardinals OF Randal Grichuk (back) is expected to begin a rehab assignment Wednesday.