Their strong finish in June is a distant memory for the New York Mets, who are suffering through their worst start to a month in more than two years.
The Mets try again for their first win of July as they open a four-game series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.
New York (46-37) won eight of its last nine games in June, outscoring opponents 46-19 while posting a 1.87 ERA in that stretch.
The tables have turned on the Mets, however, as they have been outscored 39-15 in losing their first four games of July. New York hasn’t lost its first five games in a month since April 2005.
The Mets were swept in a three-game series against Colorado, capped by a stinging 17-7 defeat on Wednesday. The Mets hadn’t allowed that many runs since Montreal beat them 19-10 on July 26, 2004. The dismal pitching performance inflated New York’s ERA to 10.41 this month.
“It was a helpless feeling this weekend,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “We couldn’t do anything to stop them. We could have had Jesus on the mound and they still would have gotten hits.”
Meanwhile, the Astros (37-48) have rebounded from a tough stretch toward the end of June with strong play at home. After losing seven of nine on their road trip June 18-27, the Astros have gone 5-2 on their current homestand.
Houston was averaging 6.8 runs in its first six games of the homestand, but lost 8-3 to Philadelphia on Wednesday. The Astros managed only one run in seven innings against Phillies starter and first-time All-Star Cole Hamels.
“We had some missed opportunities,” manager Phil Garner told the Astros’ official Web site. “We did a nice job of getting into situations, but (Hamels) is an All-Star for a reason.”
Houston will match up against one of this year’s biggest All-Star snubs as they take on New York’s John Maine (9-4, 2.74 ERA), who ranks in the NL’s top five in wins and ERA.
Maine is looking for his second four-start win streak of the season. He won all four of his outings April 18-May 4 while posting a 1.30 ERA in that stretch. He has a 1.61 ERA in winning his last three starts.
On Friday, Maine held Philadelphia to one earned run and four hits in eight innings of New York’s 5-2 victory.
He has dominated the Astros, winning both his starts against them while allowing only two runs and six hits in 15 1-3 innings.
Houston starter Jason Jennings (1-3, 3.69) looks to bounce back from consecutive losses. Jennings has delivered quality starts in both of those games, but has received only one run of support in 14 innings.
He didn’t get any support on Saturday, when the Astros lost 5-0 to Colorado. Jennings held the Rockies to three runs and five hits in seven innings, but was charged with the defeat.
“I felt like I threw the ball well,” Jennings said. “I felt good tonight. Tonight I had command and the sharpness on my pitches that I had all year last year, so it was definitely a good sign.”
In six career starts against the Mets, Jennings is 4-2 with a 3.73 ERA.