HOUSTON– For the first eight innings of the Mets opener in Houston, it was more of the same–no offense and great starting pitching.

For a third straight start, Jon Niese allowed one run in seven innings and received a no-decision for his effort. He has been dominating lately, but unfortunately, the offense and bullpen has combined to let him down lately.

He didn’t get off to a roaring start tonight, allowing four hits in the first three innings, but he settled down after that.

The scoring didn’t begin until the fourth, when Carlos Beltran laced a home run to left field off Wandy Rodriguez.

The Astros were held scoreless through 5.2 innings before they tied the game against Niese.

Just like Pelfrey last night, it was a two-out rally by the opposition. Jason Michaels singled and scored ahead of a Chris Johnson double, tying the game at 1-1 in the sixth. Johnson has been the hottest hitter in baseball since the All-Star break, leading the Majors in hitting.

The Mets had an opportunity to take the lead back in the seventh. David Wright singled and Beltran walked to start the inning. Jeff Francoeur then lined out hard to third base, and the next two batters were retired.

Niese finished strong in the seventh, allowing a single and nothing more. He was pinch-hit for in the eighth inning, after only throwing 100 pitches.

In order to earn a win, the Mets needed to score for him in the eighth. They didn’t come through, going down in order.

Therefore, Niese gets a third straight no-decision, allowing one run in seven innings in each start. His record remains 7-5, although it should be at least 10-5 by now.

Wandy Rodriguez was pulled after seven as well, pitching just as well as Niese.

Elmer Dessens was brought in for the Mets in the eighth and put two men on. Pedro Feliciano replaced him, and after committing an error, got the final out of the inning.

Finally in the ninth, the Mets found some offense against former farmhand Matt Lindstrom.

With one out, Wright and Beltran singled, putting runners on the corners. With Francoeur up, Lindstrom threw a wild pitch allowing Wright to score the go-ahead run.

Francoeur then proceeded to drive in another run with a triple, extending the Mets lead to 3-1. Ike Davis pinch-hit and was walked intentionally, and Josh Thole hit a pinch-double play, with Francoeur being thrown out at home to end the inning.

Then it was decision-making time for Mets manager Jerry Manuel. Without his closer Francisco Rodriguez, who will undergo season-ending thumb surgery, he elected to go with Hisanori Takahashi for the save chance.

Takahashi performed like a seasoned closer, retiring the Astros in order, closing out a Mets 3-1 victory.

The Mets finally got contributions in this game from their middle of the order. Wright and Beltran went a combined 5-for-7 with a home run.

Feliciano earned the win and Lindstrom got the loss.

The Mets will try to win two straight road games for the first time since June 17-18 against the Indians and Yankees tomorrow night. They’ll have Johan Santana on the mound against former Met Nelson Figueroa.

NL East standings (top 3 teams)
Atlanta 69-49
Philadelphia 66-51 (2 1/2)
NY Mets 59-59 (10)

NL Wild Card (Leader and Mets)
Philadelphia 66-51 (—)
San Francisco 67-52 (—)
NY Mets 59-59 (7 1/2)

Series probable pitchers:
August 17
New York: Johan Santana (2010: 10-6, 2.89 ERA) vs. Houston: Nelson Figueroa (2010: 1-0, 3.18 ERA)
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 17-19 @ Houston Astros
August 20-22 @ Pittsburgh Pirates

Houston Astros:
August 17-19 vs. New York Mets
August 20-22 @ Florida Marlins

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