HOUSTON—Johan Santana threw a complete game for his second straight start, but this one only lasted eight innings.

The Mets were continuing their series in Houston, facing a former friend in Nelson Figueroa, and they were flat yet again, losing 4-3 in Minute Maid Park Tuesday night.

They did score a run in the opening inning, produced by Jose Reyes. He lead off with an infield single, moved to second on a passed ball, and scored on a Fernando Martinez single.

The Mets, though, had a chance for much more in the first inning off Figueroa. They forced him to throw 35 pitches, but only scored the one run. He walked two batters consecutively, but the inning was ruined when Martinez was caught stealing.

So, they handed Santana a 1-0 lead to work with and he struggled mightily in the first. He didn’t have his changeup working early and allowed a three-run home run to the third batter he faced, Hunter Pence.

After allowing four first-inning hits, he only allowed four more hits from the second through seventh innings. He found his changeup and was throwing his fastball around 92 miles-per-hour.

Down 3-1 in the second, the Mets got a run back. With Thole on first, who singled, Santana doubled past the drawn-in third baseman. Reyes then grounded out to shortstop, driving in a run, making it 3-2.

After that, they stopped hitting Figueroa, whose curveball was only reaching the mid-70s. After the Santana double, Figueroa didn’t allow another hit, retiring 11 of the last 12 batters he faced.

Santana was rolling along, and allowed the Mets a chance to eventually tie the game. In the eighth, David Wright led off with a home run, driving in his first run in the month of August. It was his 18th of the season, knotting the game at three apiece.

Carlos Beltran then singled, but was immediately erased on a double play by Ike Davis.

Santana gave the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. Hunter Pence hit his second home run of the game, giving the Astros a 4-3 lead.

Santana pitched eight innings, starting out and ending badly. He allowed four runs on nine hits, walked one, and struck out seven. He sandwiched in six innings of zero run, four hit ball from the second through the seventh.

In the ninth, the Mets got off to a promising start in their comeback attempt. Josh Thole led off with an infield single off the glove of Astros pitcher Wilton Lopez.

Angel Pagan, who entered the game in the seventh, popped out. Pinch hitter Chris Carter grounded a ball slowly up the third base line, but pitcher Lopez threw him out at first base. Reyes fouled out to left field to end the game.

The Mets failed to win consecutive road games yet again. The Mets have still not won consecutive road games against the National League this season.

Johan Santana suffered his sixth loss and Mark Melancon got the win for Houston.

Ruben Tejada started at second base, going 0-for-2, as he’s still without a hit since his Aug. 7 call-up.

The Mets will continue the series tomorrow with R.A. Dickey facing Brett Myers.

NL East standings (top three teams)
Atlanta 70-49
*Philadelphia 67-51 (2 1/2)
NY Mets 59-60 (11) 
*Lead NL Wild Card; Mets 8 1/2 behind

Series probable pitchers:
August 18
New York: R.A. Dickey (2010: 8-5, 2.43 ERA) vs. Houston: Brett Myers (2010: 8-7, 3.13 ERA)
August 19
New York: Pat Misch (2010: 0-1, 1.50 ERA) vs. Houston: Bud Norris (2010: 5-7, 5.42 ERA)

Upcoming schedule:
New York Mets:
August 18-19 @ Houston Astros
August 20-22 @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Houston Astros:
August 18-19 vs. New York Mets
August 20-22 @ Florida Marlins

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