The Mets look to get some revenge and increase their lead in the NL East as they hand the ball to Johan Santana for the opener of a four-game series against the Astros on Friday night at Shea Stadium.
New York lost three straight road games against Houston from Aug. 1-3, falling to 7-9 after the All-Star break and into third place in the division. After the sweep, Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the team’s official Web site he hoped his team had hit a bump instead of a hill.
Manuel’s wish appears to have come true, as the Mets (71-57) have gone a major league-best 13-4 since their last meeting with the Astros. They’ve won nine of 10 to take a 2 1/2-game lead over second-place Philadelphia in the NL East.
“We continue to put ourselves in position day in and day out to win games,” Manuel said. “We have a good team. We have good chemistry. A lot of things are really working in our favor right now.”
New York continued its surge by capping a three-game sweep of Atlanta with a dramatic 5-4 win Thursday night. Carlos Delgado matched a career high with five hits, including the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the ninth.
He has 49 RBIs in his last 50 games and is batting .321 with 12 homers since July 1.
“I’m seeing the ball well,” said Delgado, whose only other five-hit performance came on May 7, 1998. “It was a big win for us. We’re really confident. We’ve been able to find a way to win ballgames. That is something we weren’t doing early in the year.”
The Mets have to like their chances of continuing their strong play with Santana (11-7, 2.75) taking the mound. After losing his last three starts of June, the left-hander is 4-0 with a 2.27 ERA in his last nine starts.
Santana pitched a three-hitter in a 4-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday to win his second consecutive start. The two-time AL Cy Young Award winner hasn’t won three straight outings since a five-start win streak from June 19-July 13, 2007, while with Minnesota.
“This is just the beginning,” Santana said.
Santana is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two career games - one start - against the Astros, who will turn to their own ace in Roy Oswalt (11-8, 4.28).
Like Santana, Oswalt hasn’t lost since June. After struggling early in the season, he’s 5-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last seven outings, including a 3-0 win over Arizona on Sunday. The right-hander held the Diamondbacks to one hit while striking out 10 in eight innings, dropping his ERA to a season-low 4.28 - still a career high.
“I had all my pitches,” Oswalt told the Astros’ official Web site. “I didn’t feel like I had to pitch around anything.”
Oswalt is 5-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 12 career starts against the Mets. Delgado is 5-for-11 with a home run, two doubles and four walks against him.
Houston (64-63) could use another strong performance from Oswalt as it tries to get back on track. After winning eight straight from Aug. 7-14, the Astros have dropped four of six, including a 5-2 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
The Mets are expected to activate outfielder Ryan Church for Friday’s game. Church, batting .307 with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs in 57 games, has been sidelined by post-concussion syndrome since he left a game on July 5 due to dizziness - six days after he came off the DL. He missed most of June following a May 20 concussion, his second in less than three months.