NEW YORK (AP) - Back home but still scuffling, the punchless New York Mets went down quietly against Wandy Rodriguez and the Houston Astros.
The little lefty found his form Tuesday night after three up-and-down starts, pitching seven sharp innings to lead the Astros to a 6-1 victory at rainy Citi Field.
Carlos Beltran homered for the Mets, who have dropped 11 of 13. They snapped a seven-game skid Sunday in Atlanta but followed it up with a sluggish effort in all facets of the game.
``We've got to stop it. I'm very concerned about it,' manager Terry Collins said.
Jonathon Niese (0-3) walked five and threw 113 pitches in six innings as New York fell to 1-7 at home, losing its past six at Citi Field. In a matchup of the NL's two worst teams so far, it was the Mets who looked like more of a mess.
The frustration showed, too. David Wright fired his helmet toward the dugout after a first-inning flyout that would have been a home run in nearly every other ballpark. Collins argued a late call at second base.
``I didn't feel right,' Niese said. ``I felt a little off.'
Michael Bourn and Carlos Lee sparked the offense as Houston won for the fifth time in nine games following a 1-7 start.
Featuring a deceptive curveball, Rodriguez (1-2) allowed only three hits and three walks, striking out a season-high seven. After signing a $34 million, three-year contract in January, he entered with a 7.31 ERA, allowing 26 hits over 16 innings in his first three starts.
``He was on. The difference was his changeup. He was able to throw all three of his pitches tonight, instead of just fastball-curveball,' Houston catcher J.R. Towles said. ``The rhythm was good. He's one of those guys who needs to work fast.'
Fernando Abad and Jeff Fulchino finished the four-hitter.
Bourn opened the game with a single and moved to second on Angel Sanchez's sacrifice. Bourn then stole third and scored on Lee's single.
Lee also singled in the third and was shaken up on the bases.
Chris Johnson hit a grounder toward the hole and new Mets second baseman Justin Turner tried for a force play. His wild, off-balance throw went past second, so Lee took off for third. But Wright scooped up the ball and beat Lee in a race to third, diving to tag the slugger on a bang-bang play at the bag.
Lee was called out and stayed down for a moment before walking back to the dugout holding his arm. He hyperextended his left elbow on the slide as he collided with Wright, but Lee remained in the game until he was replaced in left field by Jason Bourgeois with a 6-1 lead in the eighth.
``Tough call,' Lee said. ``I'm fine. I think I'll be OK.'
Brett Wallace singled to start the fourth and scored on a double by Towles, just back from a sprained left ankle. The eighth batter in the lineup, he finished 2 for 2 with a pair of walks to lift his average to .429.
Sanchez drew a walk from Pedro Beato in the seventh and scored when left fielder Scott Hairston couldn't catch Lee's deep drive with two outs. The ball glanced off Hairston's glove just before his back slammed into the high fence and he was charged with an error.
``When the ball hits your glove, you've got to catch it,' Hairston said. ``It wasn't an easy play, but it's a play that's got to be made.'
Beltran connected leading off the seventh to cut it to 3-1. All three of his homers this season have been hit right-handed at home. He has three home runs among his seven career hits against Rodriguez.
The Mets put two on with two outs but Rodriguez struck out pinch-hitter Chin-lung Hu with his 118th and final pitch.
Houston tacked on three runs against New York's struggling bullpen in the eighth. Bobby Parnell was booed off the mound after balking in a run and allowing a two-run single to Sanchez.
Parnell said he's lacked feeling lately in the middle finger on his pitching hand.
``I'm having a hard time gripping the baseball right now,' he said. ``Been fighting it for a week and a half and it's not getting any better.'
Collins said Parnell will be examined Wednesday.
``Can't get a good grip, doesn't even feel like I have a ball in my hand,' the reliever said. ``You try to fight through it, but it's an ongoing thing. ... I'm not helping the team.'
NOTES: Wright is hitless in his last 16 at_bats with seven strikeouts. ... Mets LF Jason Bay (strained left rib cage) went 4 for 4 with two homers, four RBIs and three runs scored in a rehab game with Class-A St. Lucie against Fort Myers. He was expected to come off the disabled list Thursday, but Collins said the team would discuss activating Bay on Wednesday. ... New York C Ronny Paulino (anemia) had two hits in that game for St. Lucie. ... Because of the inclement weather, the Mets offered fans with a ticket Tuesday night to free admission for a game against Pittsburgh from May 30 to June 2.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved