Thursday, April 21, 2011

Preview: 2011 Regular Season Game 19 - Astros at Mets


Houston Astros (7-11) at New York Mets (5-13), 7:10 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Houston - J.A. Happ (1-2, 5.79) New York - Chris Capuano (1-1, 8.53)

The New York Mets are off to their worst home start in team history. Tonight they hope the return of Jason Bay can reverse their recent fortunes, as the Mets try to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the Houston Astros.

Bay signed a four-year, $66 million deal with the Mets prior to the start of last season, but only appeared in 95 games and hit a mere .259 with six home runs and 47 RBI before shutting it down with a concussion in July. He was then forced to start this year on the disabled list after straining a rib cage muscle late in spring.

"Obviously he's a big piece of the puzzle here -- that's why he's here," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He's a very, very good baseball player. He's a fine offensive player. He's a good defender. He runs the bases well. We need him in our lineup. But I don't want to have to think Jason Bay, when he comes back, he's the guy. This is a team of 25."



Bay's return could not come at a better time for a Mets team that has lost seven straight games at home and at 1-8 they have eclipsed the 1-7 start from their inaugural campaign in 1962 when they team played at the Polo Grounds and set at a modern era-low for futility with 40 total victories.

It was more of the same for Collins' crew on Wednesday, as Hunter Pence clubbed a solo home run in the eighth inning to help Houston to a 4-3 win. Brett Wallace and Chris Johnson both doubled and scored a run for the Astros, who have won consecutive games for the first time this season and with another victory this evening they will have their first sweep over the Mets in Flushing since 1993.

Daniel Murphy belted a two-run homer and Carlos Beltran added an RBI double for New York, which has lost nine of its last 10 games. R.A. Dickey (1-3) surrendered four runs and eight hits over eight full frame in defeat.

"He handled Pence about as good as you can be handled," Collins said. "I felt very good about him going back out there in the eighth inning."

Overall, the Mets are off to their worst start since a 3-15 clip in the 1964 campaign.

Mets third baseman David Wright continued to struggle, as he went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. He is 0-for-18 in his last five games with nine strikeouts and has seen his season average dip to .229.

Hoping to keep Wright in check tonight will be left-hander J.A. Happ, who has lost two of his three starts this season and has pitched to a 5.79 ERA in those contests. Happ lost to the San Diego Padres his last time out, surrendering four runs and seven hits in seven innings.

Happ has faced the Mets six times (four starts) and is 1-1 with a 4.05 ERA.

New York, meanwhile, will counter with Chris Capuano, who is 1-1 with an 8.53 ERA. Capuano actually pitched a third of an inning of relief in the Mets' 3-2 win on Sunday in Atlanta, but that followed up an absolute dreadful outing in his last start last Thursday when he was battered by the Colorado Rockies for seven runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Capuano is no stranger to the Astros and has gone 4-4 against them with a 3.58 ERA in 12 games, nine of which have been starts.

New York won four of its seven matchups with the Astros last season and has won six of the last nine meetings in Flushing.
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