HOUSTON (AP) - In a matchup of two of the worst teams in the National League, the Houston Astros managed to give one away Friday night.
Bud Norris had an impressive start fall apart late, and his replacement, Jeff Fulchino, gave up the go-ahead home run as the Astros' bullpen blew another save in a 6-4 loss to the New York Mets.
Leading 4-0 to start the seventh inning, the Astros saw their lead begin to slip away when Jason Bay took Norris, who had retired the previous nine batters, five via strikeout, deep for a solo shot.
One inning later, it was pinch-hitter Fernando Martinez's turn to ring up Norris, this time for a two-run shot to put the Mets within one.
An oft-injured outfield prospect, Martinez hit his other big league long ball in 2009.
``He's got all the skills it takes to be a star, but you've got to keep him in the lineup,' Mets manager Terry Collins said. ``He knows and will be the first to tell you that you've got to stay healthy.'
And New York wasn't done with the homers. After Norris walked Jose Reyes with one out in the eighth, Fulchino came in, got Josh Thole to fly out then served up a slider on a 2-1 count that David Wright crushed into the Crawford Boxes in left field for a two-run homer that gave the Mets their first lead of the game.
They didn't trail after that, adding to it in the top of the ninth on an RBI double by Jason Pridie that secured New York's third straight win and sixth in eight games.
``I should've gotten out of that inning,' Norris said. ``I should have made some better pitches. The guy came off the bench and hit a home run. I have to tip my cap to him. A (heck) of a swing. Not the best pitch but not the worst pitch. I had him where I wanted him. I'm (upset) that I let this one get away.'
Norris (2-2) gave up five hits and four runs with eight strikeouts in 7 1-3 innings but did not figure in the decision.
``It was too bad to see a good pitching performance like that (Norris) wasn't able to get anything from,' Astros manager Brad Mills said.
Fulchino dropped to 0-1 while also being tagged for the blown save.
The Astros could look back at all the scoring chances they wasted that came back to haunt them.
A three-run sixth inning that could have yielded more had Michael Bourn not grounded into a double play that had Bill Hall out at home plate to end the inning.
An eighth inning that saw pinch-hitter Jason Michaels strike out to end the inning with the tying run at third.
Or better yet, that second inning that had Carlos Lee thrown out at home plate with no outs and runners safe at first and second. A groundout and a popout later, the Mets had escaped unscathed.
As if to illustrate the point, Lee, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored, was left one hit shy of 2,000 after grounding out to end the game with the tying run at third.
``(Norris) definitely deserved a little better fate with the way things (happened),' Mills said. ``We left a lot of guys on.'
Nine to be exact.
``It was just one of those games, one of those tailspins that happens at the end,' Bourn said.
Facing the Astros for the first time and with his parents in attendance, Dillon Gee, a native of Cleburne, Texas near Fort Worth, gave up five hits and four earned runs - three in the sixth inning - in the no-decision.
Gee struck out a career-high six through five-plus innings but also tied his career high for walks with four. He was done after allowing Chris Johnson an RBI double that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead.
Pat Misch (1-0) got the win for the Mets by throwing 1 2-3 hitless innings.
In the sixth, Hall followed Johnson's double with a run-scoring single off Ryota Igarashi, and Humberto Quintero reached on an error by first baseman Daniel Murphy that allowed Johnson to score and make it 4-0.
Lee put the Astros ahead with a sacrifice fly that scored Norris to make it 1-0 in the third.
``I'm not going to lie and say it's not frustrating because it is frustrating to not win a game,' said Johnson, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI. ``But that's baseball, and we have another one tomorrow.'
NOTES: Michaels (left shoulder) was activated from the DL before the game. ... A fan ran across the field and away from security guards and police officers and climbed the wall in center field to leave the field in the ninth inning.
The Associated Press News Service
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