By Mike Steffanos
Astros 2 - Mets 1
Although he struggled with his control, Orlando Hernandez showed no other ill effects from the tired arm that necessitated sitting out a couple of starts. Unfortunately for the veteran Cuban, the 1 hit and 1 run he allowed was enough to cost him a tough loss to Roy Oswalt and the Astros.
The Mets didn't manage a baserunner against Oswalt until Reyes' infield single in the seventh. Meanwhile, El Duque struggled a little with his control. In the home second, he allowed a leadoff hit to Aubrey Huff, then walked Luke Scott. After coming back to retire Adam Everett and Brad Ausmus, he walked Oswalt before striking out Taveras to end the threat.
After settling down for a few innings, wildness proved Hernandez' undoing in the sixth. After retiring Mike Lamb, El Duque walked Berkman and Huff, then hit Luke Scott with a pitch to load the bases. Roberto Hernandez relieved, and was greeted with Adam Everett's successful squeeze bunt to break the scoreless tie. Bert allowed nothing further in the sixth, but ran into his own problems in the seventh. He walked Taveras on five pitches. Taveras then stole second and advanced to third on Biggio's sacrifice. Darren Oliver replaced Roberto, and allowed Jason Lane's sacrifice fly to put Houston up 2-0.
The Mets had scoring chances in the seventh and eighth, but failed to capitalize. They finally broke through against Brad Lidge in the ninth on Carlos Delgado's 2-out solo home run, but it was too little, too late as they lost a game despite allowing Houston only a solitary base hit that didn't even figure in the scoring. 9 walks did the Mets in.
Thoughts on the game
El Duque was a little wild, but for the most part was not missing by much. It was a very encouraging start. Let's update the chart. I've highlighted that terrible game against the Phillies in blue, and did totals at the bottom both including and excluding that game, since that one performance skews the numbers downward so much.
It's worth keeping an eye on how well his arm and control respond over the next few starts. To my thinking, El Duque would be my number 3 starter, John Maine my fourth.
Not much to talk about offensively. Beltran didn't play and Wright got a well-deserved rest. Oswalt was impressive, but if the Mets and Astros met in the playoffs, he would not be facing a lineup that featured Chris Woodward and Mike DeFelice. The Astros have as good a chance as anyone of winning the wildcard. I think Phil Garner is one of the worst managers in baseball, but they've overcome him two years in a row now.
A disappointing game, but more bad than good in the long run.