Oswalt, Astros Bullpen Too Much For Mets Bats

After the Mets and Astros split the first two games of the series with blowout wins, Mets fans expected a pitcher's duel between bulldog starters Pedro Astacio and Roy Oswalt, and they were not disappointed. Unfortunately Astacio, who got the loss to fall to 10-4 was out-bulldogged by Oswalt, who raised his record to 12-6. Brad Ausmus continued his torturing of Mets pitching, driving in two runs in a 3-1 Astros victory on Thursday night as the Mets lost 2 of 3 to the Astros.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the second, but Astacio, after giving up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Ausmus, struck out the next two hitters, including Oswalt on a failed sacrifice bunt. Astros leadoff hitter Julio Lugo hit a single up the middle with runners on first and second, but center fielder Timo Perez charged the ball and threw a strike to Mike Piazza at home plate. Piazza received the ball in plenty of time and was able to set his feet and apply a hard tag to the face of Richard Hildalgo, who tried to bowl him over, to end the inning.

Oswalt was shutting down the Mets, not giving up a hit after Perez doubled in the first, until the fifth inning.

Ausmus drove in the second Astro run in the sixth with a two-out single upthe middle, the third straight Astro bloop hit of the inning

Mark Little, acquired in the Jay Payton trade, pinch-hit for Astacio in the sixth inning and grounded out. The Mets threatened in the inning, with Perez hitting his second double of the game with two outs, and a power match-up between Piazza and Oswalt ensued. Oswalt won, barely, getting Piazza to fly out to the center field warning track to end the inning.

David Weathers came in relief, and after retiring Lugo, gave up a long drive to left field by Craig Biggio. At first glance, the ball seemed to have it the top of the fence and back onto the field, but the second-base umpire ruled it had hit the fence where the Pepsi Picnic Area was,and it was thus a home run and a 3-0 Astro lead.

After the Mets loaded the bases with one out in the seventh and Tony Tarasco, pinch-hitting for Rey Ordonez hit a r.b.i. fielders choice groundball to first to make the score 3-1, that was it for Oswalt. In came former Met Octavio Dotel, who struck out pinch-hitter John Valentin with runners on second and third to end the inning.

That was the last real threat as Dotel piched another scoreless inning in the eighth, and Billy Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Roger Cedeno, with Edgardo Alfonzo on third, to end the game.


-Newly acquired pitcher Steve Reed pitched in the ninth, throwing a scoreless inning and escaping a two-out jam with a runner on third.

Perez, Alfonzo, and Burnitz, who is showing signs of hitting again, had two hits apiece. Daryle Ward led the Astros with three hits on the night and Biggio and Geoff Blum had two hits each.

-Having lost this series against the Astros, the Mets face their second straight litmus test that will gauge their Wild Card hopes on Friday. The West Division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks come to town for a four-game series and Al Leiter (9-8, 3.20) will toe the rubber for the Mets, while rookie John Patterson (1-0, 0.68) pitches for the Diamondbacks.

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