NEW YORK -- With the Mets batting order undermined by injuries to three regulars, Jerry Manuel has said repeatedly the team needs Fernando Tatis to be the offensive player he was last season. It hasn't happened yet even though -- or perhaps because -- Tatis has played regularly with the injuries to Carlos Delgado and Carlos Beltran and the knee problem that recently has limited the playing time of Gary Sheffield.

Tatis, who drove in 47 runs in 273 at-bats last season, had merely 13 RBIs in 129 at-bats before the Mets' game against the Cardinals on Wednesday night. He was batting .248, 51 points lower than his 2008 average.

Not only has his production lagged, but Tatis has defused a number of potential rallies as well by hitting into ground-ball double plays. He grounded into another in the first inning Wednesday, ending what had been a genuine threat that already had produced one run. The double-play grounder was the 10th by Tatis, but the Mets went on to defeat the Cardinals, 11-0.

Only plodding Yadier Molina, the Cardinals' thick-legged catcher, had produced more double plays. Tatis' 10 came in 37 double-play situations, which are at-bats with at least a runner on first base and fewer than two outs. Molina's 11 came in 40 situations.

Tatis had started in left field for the third straight game, mostly because Sheffield couldn't because of the pain in his right knee. The Mets had maintained that Sheffield was merely resting and that he could have played. Then, the 40-year-old veteran received a cortisone injection Wednesday afternoon, and Manuel acknowledged Sheffield would be available only for "emergency pinch-hitting" and that he would not be in the lineup Thursday afternoon either.

The objective is to have Sheffield's knees "calm down" and have him available for the weekend series against the Yankees.