St. Louis manager Tony La Russa has already shown that he’s willing to put the winning run on first by walking a hitter he thinks might end the game with one swing — he’s done it with Barry Bonds in the past. Today against the Mets, La Russa had closer Jason Isringhausen issue a pass to NY OF Cliff Floyd with first base empty, two out and the potential tying run on 2nd in the form of Jose Reyes. Were the next hitter not the insanely hot Mike Cameron (shown above, making a diving catch in the 5th), said gambit would’ve made more sense, but I can’t argue with results ; Izzy blew Cameron away for his first save since coming off the DL, Cards 7, Mets 6.

With Roberto Hernandez’ struggles this afternoon, and Mike DeJean’s poor showing earlier in the week, there’s nothing surprising about the Mets’ hunt for additional middle relievers, though as the New York Times’ Lee Jenkins points out, the pickings are slim.

Omar Minaya, the general manager, said yesterday that the club was considering signing reliever Steve Karsay, who is from Queens and was released by the Yankees earlier this week.

The Mets were also talking about Scott Strickland, who has been rehabilitating at Class AAA Norfolk and can become a free agent if he is not promoted by tomorrow.

Strickland has not been with the Mets since having shoulder surgery in 2003. He had a chance to make the 25-man roster out of spring training, but failed to regain his velocity and was sent to the minors.

Strickland has posted a 2.45 earned run average with four saves for Norfolk, and the Mets have received reports that his fastball has been over 90 miles an hour. Strickland’s best pitch is his slider, and if he can throw it with the consistency he did for the Montreal Expos in 2000 and 2001, he will undoubtedly be more valuable to the Mets than Manny Aybar, whose role has diminished since the season began.

The Mets are invested enough in Strickland that they do not want to lose him to free agency. According to a clause in Strickland’s contract, he could have left the club in April because he was not on the major league roster. He opted instead to accept a minor league assignment because he was not at full strength.

The Mets’ concerns about Karsay mirror some of those they have about Strickland, but the risk is low. The Mets would have to pay Karsay only the pro-rated minimum salary; the Yankees have to pay the rest of his four-year, $22.5 million contract.

I once overheard a guy working at the Mets Clubhouse Shop on 42nd St. telling a colleague that Strickland’s wife had been complaining that her husband’s jersey wasn’t selling nearly as well as that of Ty Wigginton. That either player had a jersey for sale says a lot about optimism on the part of the store manager, but with Wiggy long since departed, there’s at least one less distraction for the Strickland family.

Credit Where Credit Is Due Dept. : the oft-maligned (by me, anyway) Tom Glavine was superb against St. Louis last night. The kangaroo court can fine me $10 for doubting the Judge.