Two teams riding losing streaks will open a three-game series on Friday night at Citi Field, meeting for the last time this season. Jordan Lyles will take the ball for the Astros against the Mets' Jonathon Niese.
The Astros come to New York having dropped seven straight games, including three in St. Louis to begin their trip. Houston is still looking for its first victory under interim manager Tony DeFrancesco, who took over for Brad Mills on Sunday.
The Mets welcome the Astros to town after opening their homestand with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Rockies. New York has lost five straight overall.
The clubs haven't met since the Astros, then nearly at .500, swept the Mets in three games from April 30-May 2 in Houston.
Lyles will face the Mets for the first time. The 21-year-old right-hander is 2-10 with a 5.70 ERA, and the Astros are 2-16 in his starts. Lyles hasn't won since June 26.
He posted consecutive starts of seven innings and two earned runs allowed earlier this month, but he surrendered seven runs (five earned) in four-plus innings on Saturday against the D-backs. He gave up six of those without recording an out in the fifth, continuing an unwelcome trend.
"If you put my whole season in a short sentence, it would be the big inning," Lyles said. "I've got to stay away from that and do a better job of minimizing my mistakes. Once my back is against the wall, I've got to get out of that inning with one or two runs instead of five or six, which is what I've been doing."
Niese (10-6, 3.49 ERA) has dominated over his past two starts. The lefty has pitched 15 1/3 innings in that span, giving up one run on 11 hits and two walks, while striking out 13.
He led the Mets to their most recent win on Saturday, shutting out the first-place Nationals over 7 1/3 innings.
"It seems like when you need him most, he's stepped up," manager Terry Collins said. "He'll have a so-so outing, then he'll have a real good one. Tonight, he knew we needed him again, and he gave us a great, great outing."
Astros: Maxwell in recovery mode
Outfielder Justin Maxwell missed his second consecutive start on Thursday, the result of a bruised right index finger. He did appear as a pinch-runner on Wednesday.
"He still needs a day or two," DeFrancesco said before Thursday's game.
Maxwell leads all players on the Astros' active roster with 12 home runs in only 225 at-bats. He is hitting .236 with a .764 OPS in 96 games since Houston claimed him off waivers in April.
DeFrancesco grew up in the Bronx as a Yankees fan and expects to have more than a dozen family and friends in the stands on Friday.
Mets: Trying something new at the top
After his team scored two runs or fewer in each of the previous five games, Collins took a different approach with his lineup on Thursday afternoon against the Rockies, giving Jordany Valdespin his second start in the leadoff spot.
"Obviously, we are doing anything we can come up with to get this offense kick-started," Collins said. "We wanted to get Jordany at the top. That's where he has spent pretty much most of his career, leading off."
The often impatient rookie carried a .276 on-base percentage into the game, including .213 in August, but went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a stolen base. It didn't help the Mets' offense, which was shut out.
The Astros' last visit to Citi Field came last April 19-21, 2011, when Houston won two out of three games.
Niese's last start against the Astros on May 1 at Minute Maid Park was tied for his shortest of the season. He gave up five earned runs on six hits in three innings.