New York (58-51) at Houston (51-57)

Light Rain Currently: Houston, TX
Temp: 76° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Sat Aug 2, 2008
  • TV: SNY, FSSW
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The New York Mets are finally starting to take advantage of Johan Santana’s stellar pitching.

Santana looks to help the Mets avoid losing three games in a row for the first time in eight weeks when they continue their three-game series against the Houston Astros on Saturday.

New York (58-51) lost to the Astros 7-3 on Friday to drop their second straight, and remained one game behind NL East-leading Philadelphia. The Mets are 7-7 since the All-Star game after taking a nine-game winning streak into the break. They have not lost three straight since dropping five in a row June 5-10.

New York had several chances in the series opener, but could not capitalize.

After loading the bases with no outs in the seventh with the score tied at 3, the Mets failed to score. One inning later, Houston’s Mark Loretta hit a pinch-hit grand slam off reliever Aaron Heilman to put the Astros ahead.

Those same problems—a lack of run support and meltdowns from the bullpen— have prevented Santana (9-7, 2.93 ERA) from notching a few more victories this season.

Santana ranks in the top 10 in the NL in ERA and strikeouts (125), but has only two victories in his last 10 starts. Things seem to be turning around, though.

New York has won three of Santana’s last four starts with the left-hander posting a 2.77 ERA in those outings. This stretch has come immediately after the Mets lost his previous six outings, despite a 2.48 ERA by their staff ace in those games.

On Sunday, the two-time Cy Young Award winner threw a six-hitter and walked only one in a 9-1 win over St. Louis for his 102nd career victory.

“I know what my job is,” Santana told the team’s official Web site. “I want to give us a chance to win every time, to be consistent. I think I have been. Could it be better? Maybe.”

In his only career game versus Houston on June 6, 2000, Santana gave up one run and three hits in five innings of relief in a 3-1 victory for Minnesota.

The Astros won for the fifth time in seven games Friday, but are still 13 games back of the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs.

In addition to Loretta’s homer, Kazuo Matsui, Brandon Backe and Carlos Lee each had solo home runs.

Lee, who has 88 RBIs, has three homers and eight RBIs in his last six games, and is 9-for-29 (.310) with three home runs and three doubles lifetime versus Santana.

The Astros counter with Roy Oswalt (8-8, 4.67), who makes his second start since coming off the disabled list.

Oswalt gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings of a 5-4 win over Cincinnati on Monday in his first start after missing 10 days with a left hip adductor strain. Of his 74 pitches, 54 were strikes.

“I thought I’d be kind of all over the strike zone,” said Oswalt, who has not won back-to-back starts since April 16 and 21. “I had good command of the curveball and the fastball.”

The three-time All-Star went 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two starts against the Mets last season, and is 5-4 with a 3.52 ERA in 11 career starts versus them.

New York’s Carlos Beltran is batting .467 (7-for-15) with a homer and a double lifetime versus Oswalt, while David Wright is just 3-for-14 (.214) against him.

Wright drove in his 84th run of the season Saturday, and is batting .345 (19-for-55) with three home runs, 14 RBIs and 14 runs in 14 games since the break.

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Starting Pitchers

J. Santana Bal vs. R. Oswalt Col
16-7 Record 17-10
2.53 ERA 3.54
206 K 165
63 BB 47
1.15 WHIP 1.18

Scoreboard

Saturday, Aug 2