Houston (55-56) at New York (52-58)

Cloudy Currently: New York, NY
Temp: 59° F
  • Game info: 7:10 pm EDT Tue Aug 10, 2004
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Richard Hidalgo was once at the center of a stellar Houston Astros lineup. Now, he’s a part of the problem on one of the majors’ worst-hitting teams.

Hidalgo faces his former team for the first time as the light-hitting New York Mets host the Astros in the opener of a three-game series.

New York acquired Hidalgo from Houston on June 17 with hopes that he would help improve their offense, but after a strong start with the Mets he reverted to the downturn that caused the Astros to part with him.

Hidalgo has put up big numbers in the past as a member of what was a potent Houston lineup, but the 28-year-old hit .256 with four homers and 30 RBIs for the Astros early this season. It was a huge drop-off from last year’s .309 average with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs, numbers that helped earn him team MVP honors.

He hit .329 (27-for-82) with eight homers and 17 RBIs in his first 21 games with the Mets, rasing his average to .278 on July 24. Although Hidalgo has totaled 14 home runs with New York, his has returned to .258, and he is hitting .107 (3-for-28) in his last seven games for a team that ranks near the bottom of the National League with a .252 average.

New York, which is quickly falling out of the NL wild-card race, may be without shortstop Kaz Matsui in the series opener. Matsui left Sunday’s 6-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals with back spasms. His status us uncertain.

Matsui is one of the league’s top rookies, hitting .275 with seven home runs, 41 RBIs and 13 stolen bases. He is among the league leaders with 31 doubles and leads NL rookies in hits, runs scored, doubles, total bases, steals, multihit games and extra base hits.

The Mets, however, may get back Mike Piazza. After missing two straight games with a sore left knee and left wrist, Piazza is expected to return to the lineup after an off-day Monday.

“I need to heal and try to get to 100 percent and continue to try and get myself right with the bat,” Piazza said. “I have to do that to get the ship righted.”

Houston continues to struggle, losing 5-2 to the Montreal Expos on Sunday.

The Astros have lost six of 10, and are 11-12 since manager Phil Garner took the team over after the All-Star break.

“It’s not pretty,” Garner said. “We’ve got to go on a big winning streak. We can’t just win eight of 10. We’ve got to win 10 of 10.”

Astros second baseman Craig Biggio was hit by a pitch for the 14th time this season. He ranks second all-time and first in the NL in career hit by pitches with 256.

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Starting Pitchers

P. Munro Min vs. S. Trachsel Bal
4-7 Record 12-13
5.15 ERA 4.00
63 K 117
26 BB 83
1.46 WHIP 1.41