The road-weary Astros are happy to be back at Minute Maid Park tonight. Thirteen of the team’s last sixteen games have been away from home. The New York Mets are the opponent for the first three games of a nine game homestand. New York sends knuckleball pitcher R.A. Dickey (3-1, 4.44) to the mound tonight against the Astros and Bud Norris (1-1, 5.84).
Dickey’s last start came at home against Miami, and it was a good one. The Marlins managed only one run and three hits in seven innings against the knuckleballer. However, Dickey’s last road start was a disaster. The Braves scored eight runs and knocked Dickey out in the fifth inning. The knuckleball is tough thing to predict. The Astros have had a mixed amount of success against Dickey. He has a 1-2 record with a 3.82 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP against Houston for his career.
Much like the Astros, the Mets weren’t expected to do much this season. But Mets fan have enjoyed the first month of the season, watching their team post a 13-9 record which has them within one game of the division lead. David Wright is off to an outstanding start after an injury plagued season in 2011. Wright currently boasts a .397/.506/.588 slash line that will surely earn him some N.L. Player of the Month votes. Wright leads the league in OBP and is second in batting average, behind Matt Kemp.
Another reason for the Mets early success is the return of Johan Santana. The ace of the Mets staff missed all of 2011 due to injury but has been excellent thus far in 2012. Santana has a 1.27 WHIP and a 2.25 ERA in five starts for the Mets. Fortunately, the Astros will miss Santana’s spot in the rotation this time around.
Our old pal Terry Collins has the Mets playing inspired baseball. Contributions have come from some unexpected sources as well. Rookie Kirk Nieuwenhuis, pressed into action with Andres Torres on the disabled list, is hitting .316 with two homers and eleven runs scored. Utility man Scott Hairston got a start on Friday in Colorado and hit for the cycle. Torres has been activated from the D.L. and should be leading off and playing centerfield tonight.
Astros leadoff man and centerfielder Jordan Schafer has reached base safely in all 22 games this season. SS Jed Lowrie has yet to make an error and has begun to heat up at the plate in recent games. Jose Altuve is hitting .373/.418/.566 and has 12 multi-hit games. Marwin Gonzalez returns from paternity leave today and the new father could be a candidate for a big game. Carlos Lee remains day-to-day with a sprained left ankle.