New York (45-66) at Houston (60-51)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 92° F
  • Game info: 8:05 pm EDT Tue Aug 5, 2003
  • TV: MSG, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Al Leiter looks to continue his best stretch of the season when the New York Mets open a three-game series with the NL Central-leading Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Leiter, who returned from the disabled list on July 20 after being sidelined by a knee injury, is 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in his last three starts. The left-hander hasn’t allowed an earned run in 15 innings, and is coming off a 2-0 victory over Milwaukee on Thursday in which he scattered five hits in seven innings.

“The knee’s been a lot better. I feel good physically and I know that has a lot to do with how you perform,” said Leiter, who gave up 13 runs in 11 2-3 innings in two starts before going on the DL.

“More than anything else, after feeling better physically I have a better mental approach.”

The Astros, two games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, will play 18 of their next 25 games at home, following a stretch of 14 road games in 17 days.

Houston ended a six-game road trip with a 3-3 record by taking two of three at Florida over the weekend, capped with Sunday’s 3-1 win Sunday.

“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Astros skipper Jimy Williams said. “We’ve talked about this being a hot trip going from Atlanta to Florida. To come out of here 3-3, especially the way we started, it’s big for us.”

STANDINGS: Mets - 5th place, 28 GB, NL East. Astros - 1st place, NL Central.

METS PROBABLE STARTER: Leiter (10-5, 4.81 ERA). Leiter earned a victory in a 4-2 win over Houston on April 23, allowing two runs over six innings. However, he’s just 3-6 with 5.16 ERA in 12 career starts against the Astros, including an 0-2 mark with a 7.00 ERA in two outings at Minute Maid Park.

ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Ron Villone (3-1, 2.25 ERA). The veteran left-hander has not allowed more than three runs in any of his eight starts this year, including Thursday’s 7-3 win at Atlanta. Villone is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in 11 career appearances, including two starts, against New York.

OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Mets - Cliff Floyd, .279 avg., 18 HRs and 59 RBIs; Ty Wigginton, 58 runs and 8 SBs. Astros - Richard Hidalgo, .312 avg.; Jeff Bagwell, 24 HRs; Lance Berkman, 67 RBIs; Bagwell and Craig Biggio, 73 runs; Bagwell and Adam Everett, 6 SBs.

SEASON SERIES: Mets, 2-1.

STREAKS AND NOTES: Mets - 3B Wigginton, who has 24 doubles, is four short of equaling the club rookie record set by Ron Hunt in 1963 and Greg Jefferies in 1989. … OF Floyd, INF Jay Bell and 1B Tony Clark are hitting a combined .375 (9-for-24) career against LHP Villone. … LHP Leiter is 5-3 with a 5.02 ERA in 10 road starts this season. Astros - 1B Bagwell is 10-for-28 (.357) in his career against Leiter. … OF Orlando Merced is 0-for-9 in his career against Leiter. … Bagwell is three homers shy of tying Duke Snider (407) for 34th on the all-time list.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Mets - 22-31 on the road. Astros - 33-20 at home.

INJURIES: Mets - C Mike Piazza (groin), 15-day DL; 1B Mo Vaughn (knee), 60-day DL; RHP Pedro Astacio (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Grant Roberts (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Scott Strickland (groin), 60-day DL. Astros - INF Jose Vizcaino (wrist), 15-day DL; LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Roy Oswalt (groin), 15-day DL; RHP Rodrigo Rosario (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (elbow), 60-day DL.

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Starting Pitchers

A. Leiter NYY vs. R. Villone Was
15-9 Record 6-6
3.99 ERA 4.13
139 K 91
94 BB 48
1.49 WHIP 1.30