ST. LOUIS -- When it was over, after the Mets had applied the finishing touches to their thorough, three-game thrashing of their first opponent, they put their achievements on the invisible clubhouse scale and weighed what they had accomplished. It wasn't unimportant, they decided. Three games, three victories, three demonstrations of superiority. A "Tip Your Hat" trick.

It all meant something, and the something was purely positive. What meant little or nothing to them, though, was that it all had come against the Cardinals. For three games, now identified in order as 6-1, 4-1 and 10-0 victories, the Mets asserted themselves and played, in their own words and measure, about as well as a team can play to start a season. And to them, the identity of the victim was without meaning.

"This was about us and no one else," manager Willie Randolph said. "Nothing you do this early has any lasting effect. This was about us getting off good. We knew who we were playing; we knew what they did to us last year. And the only team we thought about was the New York Mets. I like that focus."

The manager spoke as the Mets dressed, packed and took their first steps toward Atlanta. Another three-game series against another opponent with aspirations and talent awaits them. "A different monster," Billy Wagner said.

And this weekend, the opponent's identity will matter.

"The same division," Carlos Beltran said. "More important."

But on this night, April 4, 2007, the score was Mets 10 and the It-Doesn't-Matters 0.

The Mets spent another nine innings shedding the final vestiges of their unbecoming Spring Training skin. They flexed their muscles, asserted themselves and reminded anyone who needed reminding how well they can play. But, almost to a man, they insisted the Cardinals had nothing to do with their motivation.

"It could have been any one," Paul Lo Duca said. "I think we played with a purpose because it was time to play that way. There were some skeptics again probably, because of what happened in the playoffs. But we were just playing to get going."

And they did, dominating the team that had denied them an entree into the World Series last season. With John Maine, Ambiorix Burgos and Aaron Sele combining on a two-hitter, the Mets produced their first 3-0 record since 1994 and the first Mets sweep in this city since May 2000. With Carlos Beltran hitting two home runs and driving in four runs and Jose Reyes driving in three more, the Mets outscored the Cardinals 20-2 in the series and impressed themselves.

"I'd say we're all very pleased with how it has worked out," Wagner said. "You go on the road, and you want to play .500. We've already achieved that -- at worst."

The Mets were pleased with Maine, who surrendered no more than a fifth-inning single by Scott Rolen and two walks in his seven innings, while striking out six. The other St. Louis hit came against Sele, who pitched the ninth.


"Obviously, they're not playing their best. But we're playing pretty good, and that's what's most important. We didn't think about them much. This was about us."
-- David Wright

The Mets didn't score against former teammate Braden Looper, the closer turned starter, until the sixth inning, when Beltran hit the Mets' first home run of the season, driving in Lo Duca. Shawn Green then drove in a run with the second of his two hits. Looper, in his first start after 572 relief appearances, was charged with eight hits and three runs in six innings.

Reyes and Beltran followed with solo home runs in the seventh inning against Josh Hancock. And the Mets scored five times in the eighth, as the Cardinals made their daily outfield misplay -- this one by Preston Wilson -- and Reyes followed with a two-run double.

"A great series for us," David Wright said, staying with the first-person plural theme. "What part of our team didn't get going? We played great defense the first night. ... Our pitching was pretty good every game, and we hit tonight."

The Mets had 12 hits, three by Lo Duca, and four others, for extra bases.

Given their uneven and seemingly uninspired performance in spring exhibition games, the Mets had come to the home park of the World Series champions with grandiose plans for beginning their season.

"What we need to do," Wagner said Sunday night, "is to win the series, just like any other series."

But the Cardinals provided little resistance. The Mets never trailed in 27 innings. And the Mets, according to Wagner, "did all the things you have to do to be a good team," including exploiting a team that played with little purpose.

"I can't remember playing this well in all aspects of the game in back-to-back-to-back games," Wright said. "Obviously, they're not playing their best. But we're playing pretty good, and that's what's most important. We didn't think about them much. This was about us."