Lindstrom's struggles cost Astros in ninth
Closer allows pair of runs in first outing in nearly week
HOUSTON -- Matt Lindstrom's velocity was up, and so were the hopes of Astros manager Brad Mills and everybody else at Minute Maid Park that wasn't rooting for the Mets.
Lindstrom, making his first appearance in nearly a week after struggling with back issues that hindered his performance on the field, came out of the bullpen throwing close to 100 mph, showing evidence he was healthy once again and over his back ailment.
The electric stuff was there, but Lindstrom's struggles remain.
Lindstrom, pitching for the first time since Tuesday, gave up two runs and three hits in the ninth inning to allow the Mets to break the Astros' three-game winning streak with a 3-1 win Monday night in the first meeting of the season between the two clubs.
"I'm just missing my pitches right now, so it is what it is," Lindstrom said. "I thought I felt good. The back wasn't an issue tonight and it's just unfortunate. Our guys battled all game and I come in here and give up some hits and runs and that was the deciding factor."
In his last four appearances, Lindstrom (2-4) is 0-3 with two blown saves and has allowed nine earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He recorded a quick out in the ninth Monday before allowing three hits and intentionally walking pinch-hitter Ike Davis, who was his final batter.
"You could tell he was healthy the way he was throwing because his velocity was back up," Mills said. "There were some balls that must have been over the middle of the plate that they were able to hit, but for the most part, it was sure nice to see his velocity back up there because the back was not an issue."
Called upon to work the ninth inning of a 1-1 game, Lindstrom retired Angel Pagan before getting ahead of David Wright with a pair of 99 mph fastballs. He threw an 0-2 slider that Wright sent back up the middle for a single. Carlos Beltran followed with a single to right field, and Wright scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.
Jeff Francoeur tripled off the wall in left-center on a 3-2 pitch to score Beltran and put the Mets ahead, 3-1.
"I tried to throw a good sinker to Beltran and those balls found holes, and I threw a wild pitch the first pitch slider to Francoeur and worked the count full," Lindstrom said. "I wasn't going to walk him and challenged and missed."
The hit was a relief for Francoeur, who has struggled since the All-Star break.
"Against a guy like Lindstrom throwing 98, to take the pitches I did fight off and get a nice one and line it, has been a long time coming for me," he said.
Lindstrom, as has been the case throughout his rough patch, wasn't shy about facing reporters.
"It's frustration, it really is, especially considering the fact I've had a couple of rough ones in a row now," he said. "It's definitely testing my patience and my will, but I have confidence in myself that I'll bounce back and get back in there.
"I can't imagine how frustrated my teammates are when they see me come in and they have to have a good feeling throughout the game and how it's going to go down. Just more frustrated for the team. I'm the guy that's supposed to throw up zeros, and I haven't been doing the job."
Astros starter Wandy Rodriguez pitched well once again, but didn't get a decision for the third start in a row. He went seven innings and gave up four hits, one run, three walks and struck out six batters. Mets starter Jon Niese allowed seven hits and one run and struck out five batters in seven innings.
"I didn't feel 100 percent, but I tried to do the best I could," said Rodriguez, who is 6-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his last 10 starts.
Beltran, who is still getting booed by Astros fans more than five years he opted to leave Houston in free agency, hit a two-out solo home run in the fourth, and Houston tied the game in the sixth on a two-out double by Chris Johnson (2-for-3), who lined out to third base in the fifth and continues to hit the ball hard. Jason Castro also hit the ball hard and wound up with an out in the fourth, and Jason Michaels ripped a liner to left that was caught in the eighth.
"Seemed earlier on we hit a few balls hard right at them," said second baseman Jeff Keppinger, who left the game in the eighth inning with a sprained left big toe. "We battled back there late again to tie it up and it did look like we were going to get something going later on. At least we battled back and gave it a game."
Houston left the bases loaded in the eighth when Castro smacked a ball to the gap in left-center field that was run down by a streaking Beltran to end the inning. That left the Astros 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, and they went down quietly in the ninth against Hisanori Takahashi, who closed in place of the injured Francisco Rodriguez.
"Unfortunately we had a couple of those," Castro said of the hard-hit outs. "Hunter [Pence] hit a ball hard and [Johnson] hit a ball hard and we just kind of found the defenders tonight. It's one of those nights where it didn't go our way."
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.