08/15/10 1:09 PM ET
Astros, Mets set to become familiar foes
By James Hall / MLB.com
In spite of their overall 52-65 record, the Astros have played solid baseball over the past three months. Since June 1, Houston has gone 34-31, this after posting a disappointing 17-34 mark through May.
A big factor in the Astros' turnaround has been Monday's starting pitcher, Wandy Rodriguez. The left-hander is 6-1 in his past nine outings, while posting a 1.79 ERA -- the third lowest ERA among National League starters over that span.
Backing Rodriguez will be Houston's surging offense. Prior to the All-Star break, the Astros had a collective batting average of just .238. Since the Midsummer Classic, the club has hit .277, averaging 5.4 runs per game.
Astros outfielder Hunter Pence has been a one-man wrecking crew, hitting safely in 18 of his past 20 games, and in 28 of his past 32 games. During the month-long stretch, Pence has accumulated five home runs and 25 RBIs, while hitting .356.
With the Mets' playoff hopes hanging by a thread, lefty Jonathan Niese will attempt to produce an equally impressive sequel. In his one career performance against the Astros, the southpaw gave the Mets seven innings of one-run baseball en route to a victory. Apart from one poor start Aug. 2 against Arizona, when he was tagged for six earned runs over 4 1/3 frames, Niese has been outstanding since the beginning of July - posting a 2.12 ERA with 41 strikeouts over seven starts.
Mets: On the road again
After wrapping up a six-game homestand Sunday night with a loss to the Phillies, the Mets hit the road for seven games against National League Central opponents, including four in Houston and three at PNC Park next weekend vs. the Pirates. ... Shortstop Jose Reyes collected his 80th career triple in the fourth inning of Saturday night's 4-0 loss to the Phillies. Reyes is one of just six active players with 80 or more triples. The others are: Carl Crawford, Johnny Damon, Jimmy Rollins, Cristian Guzman and Juan Pierre. ... Along with the Cubs, the Mets are one of only two teams in the Majors that have not won a game this year after trailing heading into the ninth inning. The Mets are 0-46 in those situations in 2010.
Astros: Comeback any time
With their 8-2 victory on Sunday, the Astros end their season series with the Pirates at Minute Maid Park with a perfect 9-0 mark. ... Michael Bourn, who has stolen eight bases in his past 12 games and currently leads the National League with 39 steals, was named the Astros' recipient of the Heart and Hustle Award prior to Sunday's contest against Pittsburgh.
The Mets have scored three or fewer runs in 10 of 13 games this month, going 5-8 in that stretch. The Mets are 14-40 when scoring three runs or fewer this year. ... Astros infielder Jeff Keppinger has hit safely in 16 of his past 22 games, batting .312 (24-for-77). He has scored a career-high 49 runs this year.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.