Houston Astros 4, New York Mets 1
NEW YORK -- The heightened moment of Saturday's game came in the eighth inning, when a string of hits formed the rare instance of a Mets rally and, down three runs to the Astros, they had the tying run at the plate with one out.
A three-pitch strikeout by Jeff Francouer and a diving catch by Astros left fielder Jason Bourgeois stamped out the charge almost as quickly as it arose in the 4-1 loss.
The rally, though short-lived, stands as the Mets' lone offensive highlight in a long evening of continued hitting woes. The lineup couldn't help ace Johan Santana, who saw his run of three consecutive complete games fall flat but his losing streak live to three games.
Santana's counterpart, Brett Myers, improved his historic stretch to 27 consecutive starts of at least six innings, setting a franchise record in front of 33,024 at Citi Field.
Santana, who was trying to become the first Mets pitcher in 22 years to throw four consecutive complete games, gave up four runs on eight hits in seven innings to drop another easily winnable start.
"I'm not perfect," said Santana, who is 10-9 this season. "You're going to give up some runs out there. It's just how you manage to stay as deep in the game as you can and hope your team comes back and scores some runs."
Santana was set back by a 32-pitch first inning in which he allowed four hits and two runs on RBI singles by Carlos Lee and Tommy Manzella. He settled down until the fifth, when a two-run home run on a fastball by Lee put the Astros ahead by four.
"It was just one of those innings where they hit a couple balls to the right spot," Santana said. "I was trying to salvage my pitches, throw my changeup and my fastball. It seemed to me that whenever they hit the ball, they found a hole."
The run support was sufficient for Myers, who is 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his past four starts. He allowed six hits with six strikeouts in seven innings to earn his 10th win, quietly putting together one of the finer seasons in the National League.
With a 1-2 inside fastball, Myers struck out Francoeur to complete the sixth and extend his impressive streak of starts. He passed right-hander Larry Dierker's Astros mark, set in 1970, and holds the longest such streak in the Majors since Arizona's Curt Schilling in 2002.
"I'm not trying to break any records," Myers said. "If it happens, it happens. I'm not looking too much into because I've still got to go out there in five, six days and do the job again."
With star shortstop Jose Reyes sitting out for the second night in a row with a strained right oblique, Myers faced a weakened Mets lineup already watered down by injuries. Their August offensive swoon continued.
Four times in the first five innings, the Mets put a runner in scoring position with less than two outs, but they were continually unable to drive him home. In the past five games, the team has stranded 46 baserunners and is batting .195 with runners in scoring position.
"It's frustrating," Francoeur said. "Just when you think we might have something going, we fall back into a slump like this. We're only giving ourselves two or three chances to score a game and that's it, that's what's frustrating."
With Myers out of the game in the eighth, the Mets linked together three hits and scored a run to bring the game within reach with one out. The crowd sensed a moment brewing, but their cheering died down quickly. Francoeur struck out on a high fastball by Wilton Lopez. Then a low line drive by pinch-hitter Josh Thole was snagged off the ground by Bourgeois to end the inning.
"We've got to believe that at some point in these last 37 games that we're going to break out and score about 10 runs," said Mets manager Jerry Manuel.
Santana lost his fourth game in six starts in August despite a 2.55 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings. It wasn't his cleanest outing, but it was certainly reasonable to expect a win. Instead, his losing streak got bumped to three for just the second time since 2004.
After the game, Manuel was asked what there is left to do to jumpstart his struggling lineup -- if he had any desperation moves still deep in the bag.
"Anything is a possibility," Manuel said, his last words before leaving for the night.