Astacio, who won 12 games for the Mets last season, has been sidelined with biceps tendinitis since the start of the season. His return comes just in time for the Mets, who placed starter David Cone and outfielder Jeromy Burnitz on the 15-day disabled list after they both suffered injuries on Tuesday.
The Mets also shuffled their outfield on Wednesday, announcing that Roger Cedeno would be replaced in center field by a platoon of Tsuyoshi Shinjo and Timo Perez. Cedeno, who is hitting .177 with one home run and four RBIs in 62 at-bats, is expected to see some time in right field, though he will not play there regularly.
“Cedeno’s disappointed, but he’s not the only one not hitting,” Mets manager Art Howe said.
The Astros come into the game slumping, with losses in eight of their last 11 games. Houston is looking to win a series for the first time since taking two of three from Cincinnati from April 8-10.
Despite a lineup that features some of the biggest names in the NL, the Astros main problem during their slump has been an inability to score runs. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to New York marked the 12th time in the last 16 games that Houston has scored four runs or fewer.
“Their pitching just shut us down tonight,” Astros manager Jimy Williams said Wednesday.
STANDINGS: Astros - 3rd, 2 1/2 GB, NL Central. Mets - 5th, 3 GB, NL East.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Wade Miller (0-1, 4.15 ERA). Miller is coming off an outstanding outing against Milwaukee on Saturday, when he did not earn a decision in Houston’s 3-2 loss. The right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just five hits and three walks while striking out three. Miller is 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in two career starts against the Mets.
METS PROBABLE STARTER: Astacio (12-11, 4.79 ERA in 2002). Astacio looked like two different pitchers last season, going 8-3 with a 3.17 ERA before the All-Star break and 4-8 with a 7.00 ERA after it. The right-hander was especially bad in September, when he was 1-3 with a 10.30 ERA in five starts. Astacio, who briefly pitched for the Astros at the end of 2001, is 8-6 with a 4.08 ERA lifetime against his former team.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Jeff Bagwell, .338 avg., 8 HRs and 16 RBIs; Craig Biggio, 16 runs; four tied with 2 SBs. Mets - Roberto Alomar, .282 avg.; three tied with 3 HRs; Mo Vaughn, 12 RBIs; Ty Wigginton, 14 runs; Cedeno, 3 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Even, 1-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - RHP Brian Moeller, scheduled to start Saturday at Montreal, has mild tendinitis of the right flexor tendon, but will probably still start against the Expos. Moeller had returned to Houston for an MRI. … OF Lance Berkman returned to the lineup Wednesday for the first time in a week and went 1-for-4. He missed the entire Milwaukee series and the first game against the Mets with a sprained ligament in his left elbow. … Of the Astros first 20 games, 12 were decided by one (5-3) or two (1-3) runs. Mets - RHP Grant Roberts began his major league rehab assignment Wednesday for St. Lucie of the Florida State League. Roberts has been on the disabled list all season with right shoulder soreness. … OF Cliff Floyd returned after missing two games with a sore Achilles’ tendon and went 2-for-4 with a single and a double. … New York has scored just 75 runs this year, second to last in the NL ahead of Arizona’s 74.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 5-6 on the road; Mets - 6-5 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (rotator cuff), 15-day DL. Mets - LHP John Franco (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Roberts (shoulder), 15-day DL; OF Burnitz (hand), 15-day DL; RHP Cone (hip), 15-day DL.