The Houston Astros' Jordan Schafer was impressive in April, pacing what's proven to be one of baseball's most productive clubs in key situations.
Schafer and the Astros hope they'll be able to say the same in May starting Tuesday night as they continue a three-game series with the visiting New York Mets.
After failing to collect a hit off of New York's R.A. Dickey through five innings Monday, Houston (9-14) scored three times in the sixth. The Mets tied the score in the seventh, but Jed Lowrie singled home Schafer in the eighth to lift Houston to a 4-3 win in which it only collected five hits.
Schafer, who went 2 for 4 with a pair of runs scored, stole his team-leading eighth base to get into scoring position for Lowrie. The Astros are batting an NL-best .302 with men on second or third after going 2 for 4 Monday.
"I'm just trying to get on base and give the guys behind me opportunities so we can score runs," Schafer said. "My job leading off is to get on base and steal bases or bunt guys over or whatever. So ... I try to cause a little bit of havoc on the bases and score some runs."
Batting .294 over an eight-game hitting streak, Schafer has reached base in each of Houston's 23 games - two short of former shortstop Denis Menke's franchise-best run to start a season in 1969.
"He's been the catalyst for us just about this whole season, and it's been huge," manager Brad Mills said.
Schafer, however, could have a hard time extending his streak considering he's 0 for 8 without a walk against Mets starter Jonathon Niese (2-0, 2.81 ERA).
Niese, who's limited opponents to a .191 average over his first four starts, gave up two runs, four hits and struck out six over a season-best seven innings of Thursday's 3-2 walk-off win over Miami.
"Jon pitched really well today and deserved better fortune," manager Terry Collins told the team's official website. "He did what the starter's supposed to do, and that's kept you in the game and give you a chance to win."
The left-hander has had his way with the Astros over three career starts, going 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA - his lowest mark against any team he's faced more than once.
Carlos Lee, who is 2 for 8 off Niese, was held out of the lineup for the third consecutive day Monday due to a sprained left ankle. Lee is batting .382 with a pair of homers during an eight-game home hitting streak versus New York (13-10) and could return Tuesday.
After producing quality starts in each of his first three turns through the rotation, Astros scheduled starter J.A. Happ (1-1, 4.70) yielded four runs, seven hits and two walks over five innings of Wednesday's 7-5 road win over Milwaukee. The left-hander didn't factor in the decision but struck out eight, giving him 24 in 23 innings.
Happ is 2-2 with a 5.68 ERA in six career starts against New York, surrendering eight homers in 31 2-3 innings. He surely isn't looking forward to facing David Wright, who's gone 6 for 13 and taken him deep three times.
Hitting a team-high .389 with a major league-best .494 on-base percentage, Wright is batting .417 with a homer and three doubles during a seven-game hitting streak
While he wasn't needed Monday, Mets closer Frank Francisco was unavailable due to a hamstring injury. He is listed as day to day.
The Associated Press News Service
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