HOUSTON: The Mets will continue their four-game series in Houston tonight, seeking to win back-to-back road games. The last time they accomplished the feat was June 17-18 against the Indians and Yankees.

More importantly, the Mets need to win two more games in this series to secure their first NL road series win of 2010. Yes, that’s right, they have only won two Interleague road series this season.

They will have a pitcher on the mound who has come up big so much this season for the Mets, Johan Santana. He’s exactly what a team wants from an ace.

Generally in his Mets tenure, Santana has stepped up in every way the Mets have needed him in dire situations.

Of course, the signature moment of Santana’s career came on Sept. 27, 2008, when on the second-to-last day of the season he kept the Mets in the playoff race for another day. He threw a complete-game shutout against the Marlins on a torn meniscus.

What he did in his last start was big as well. On Thursday, he threw a complete-game shutout against the Rockies.

It came a day after Francisco Rodriguez’s assault, when the Mets needed a closer. Santana made sure for that day, they wouldn’t need one.

The situation is a little different this time around, as the Mets will be without their closer for the rest of the season. Nobody expects Santana to throw a complete game every time out, but they do expect him to pitch fairly deep and succeed.

After some shakiness in the first half of the season, Santana has rebounded to pitch brilliantly, the way he has his whole career in the second half.

He hasn’t allowed a run over his last two starts, working on a 16.1 innings scoreless streak.

Looking at the standings, the Mets are 10 games behind the Braves in the NL East. But, looking at the NL Wild Card race, they’re only 7.5 games behind.

Seven and a half games is not insurmountable, and if Santana can pitch well again, the Mets may have a sliver of hope. The only problem for the Mets is, the Phillies and Giants face each other for three games, meaning they can’t gain any ground tonight.

What the Mets can also hope for is that their two big bats stay alive for a while. Last night, David Wright and Carlos Beltran went a combined 5-for-7 with a home run, although they still only scored three runs.

But at least it’s something to look at in a positive light, hoping those sticks can get on a hot streak.

Really, no one is hitting at all, and the entire bottom of the lineup has become a platoon between veteran and youth. For the remaining three games in this series, you can expect the youthful lineup to be out there.

All the pitchers the Astros will throw out are right-handed, so expect to see Davis, Thole, and Martinez in there.

Pitching for the Astros tonight will be former Met Nelson Figueroa. The same Nelson Figueroa who the Mets left off the roster after spring training.

He spent two seasons with the Mets in 2008 and 2009, and was a quality reliever/spot starter.

After the Mets relieved him of his services, he had some unkind words for them. He spoke about how unprofessional the clubhouse was and how the Mets took everything as a joke when he was with them.

He pitched for the Phillies for parts of four months, before being released, although he didn’t do a terrible job.

The Astros picked him up about a month ago, and he has appeared in eight games as a reliever for them. Tonight will be his first Astros start.

The Mets will try and hit him hard tonight, and you’d figure the Mets have the major pitching advantage, but hey, you never know. It would be nice for the Mets to string consecutive road wins together though.

Johan Santana vs. Houston (career)
2-1, 2.52 ERA, 25 IP, 26 hits, 8 BB, 14 SO

Nelson Figueroa vs. New York (career)
0-0, 3.78 ERA, 16.2 IP, 18 hits, 4 BB, 7 SO

2010 season series (New York vs. Houston)

Aug. 16: New York 3, Houston 1

Mets lead series 1-0

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