Mets steamed by Astros

New York Mets Notes and Quotes for Thursday, June 9: The Mets falter with runners in scoring position; Mike Piazza gets nicked; Jose Offerman signs while Danny Graves gets closer; three Mets minor league clubs win in their final at-bat...

Last Game: Houston Astros 4, New York Mets 1 One night after Pedro Martinez dazzled with a complete game two-hitter, Victor Zambrano fizzled, allowing three runs over six innings in a laborious effort.

Three runs in six innings qualifies Zambrano for a quality start, but it also earmarked him for a loss on a night when Astros righthander Brandon Backe was able to walk a career-high six and get away with it.

The Mets went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position after Ramon Castro reached Backe for an RBI double in the first inning, dooming New York to playing a rubber game on Thursday.

"It's not like we're pressing," David Wright said. "I'm a firm believer in keeping getting in situations to drive in runs. You're certainly going to get a chance to hit."

The Mets are three games above .500 at 31-28, tied for third place and two games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals. No team in the NL East is more than 2.5 games out.

Notes & Quotes

GRAVES NEARS DEAL: Danny Graves got as close to being a Met as he could on Wednesday – during early-afternoon workouts, the reliever actually wore a Mets batting practice uniform with his name and No. 32 on the back - but alas, he still is not a member of the team.

With the MLB Draft having concluded on Wednesday, Mets brass should finally be able to hammer out an ongoing agreement with Graves, 31, who was released by the Cincinnati Reds last month after his ERA ballooned to 7.36 and made an obscene gesture to a fan.

It is believed the Mets are working on a deal for the 2006 season with Graves, who is already owed $6.25 million by the Reds for 2005 and will only earn the pro-rated league minimum from New York.

"This is awesome," Graves told reporters. "I've never been this excited about playing again. It's been a while since I looked forward to actually coming to the ballpark and contributing. Even though I can't contribute yet, I feel so close to being there. I have never been so happy to be a part of the team."

PIAZZA INJURED: Mike Piazza left Wednesday's game after being hit in the left wrist with a foul ball in the first inning off the bat of Astros outfielder Todd Self. Piazza was taken for X-rays, which were negative.

OFFERMAN SIGNS: The Mets inked 36-year-old Jose Offerman to a minor league contract on Wednesday. The veteran infielder hit .182 with one home run and three RBI in 33 games with the Philadelphia Phillies this year before he was designated for assignment on May 20; he'll work out at the Mets' extended spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla. before joining the Triple-A Norfolk Tides.

Minor League Report

TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Mike DiFelice roped a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the 11th on Wednesday, leading the Tides past Durham 4-3. David Lee picked up his second win in relief for Norfolk (34-27), which leads Durham by seven games in the International League South.

DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Matt Peterson – one of the overlooked items from last July's deal for Kris Benson – held the B-Mets to a run over six innings on Wednesday as Binghamton fell at Altoona, 4-2. Binghamton (27-27) resides in fourth place and trails Portland by 3.5 games in the Eastern League Northern Division.

HIGH-A ST. LUCIE: Andy Wilson's three-run double lifted the St. Lucie Mets to a 9-8 win over Brevard County on Wednesday. Shawn Bowman hit a grand slam for St. Lucie (23-33), which trails Vero Beach by 10.5 games in the Florida State League East.

LOW-A HAGERSTOWN: Ryan Coultas plated the winning run with a double in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Hagerstown Suns topped Lake County Wednesday, 6-5. Corey Coles and Coultas each had three hits, including a homer each, and Jim Burt also homered for Hagerstown (37-23), which holds a one-game lead on Lexington in the South Atlantic League's Northern division.

On Deck

The Mets try to win another series at Shea Stadium on Thursday, opposing a pitcher who is no stranger to winning games in New York – Houston's Andy Pettitte (3-6, 3.47). Tom Glavine (4-5, 4.63) gets the nod for the Mets, looking to win his fourth decision out of five.

MEET PEDRO MARTINEZ!

Join Steiner Sports and Inside Pitch Magazine on June 11 at Last Licks in Huntington, N.Y. to meet and greet Mets ace Pedro Martinez … Visit www.lastlicks.net or call 631-423-5425 for more info!


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