(Sports Network) - The presence of Johan Santana on the mound wasn't enough to lift the New York Mets to a win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday. The team now turns to an unlikely stopper in hopes of avenging that defeat when the two clubs resume a four-game series tonight at Minute Maid Park.
R.A. Dickey entered this season with just 22 victories over a nomadic seven- year major league career with three teams, but the journeyman has emerged as a very reliable starter for the Mets in 2010. The knuckleball specialist has compiled an 8-5 record along with an outstanding 2.43 earned run average in 17 starts since joining New York's rotation in mid-May, and enters tonight's tilt off the performance of his life.
Against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday, Dickey yielded only one hit -- a sixth-inning single to opposing pitcher Cole Hamels -- and struck out seven in a complete-game gem that lifted the Mets to a 1-0 triumph. The right-hander is now one win shy of matching his career high in a season, set as a rookie with the Texas Rangers in 2003.
It should be noted, though, that most of Dickey's success has taken place in his home park. The 35-year-old is 5-1 with a stellar 1.22 ERA at Citi Field this year, compared to a 3-4 mark and 3.24 ERA in 11 road starts.
Dickey has never previously faced the Astros in a starting role, but has thrown two scoreless innings in a pair of prior relief appearances against tonight's opponent.
Santana also went the distance in Tuesday's matchup with Houston, but the New York ace came out on the wrong end of a 4-3 decision. The go-ahead run was provided by Hunter Pence, who belted a tie-breaking solo homer off Santana with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Pence also had a three-homer against Santana in the bottom of the first and finished 2-for-4 for the Astros, who lost Monday's series opener but are now 4-1 on this seven-game homestand.
"You know you can still come back, that's the big thing," said Astros manager Brad Mills of the win. "It's a testament to those guys in the clubhouse, the way they go about their business, the way they work and the way they are in the dugout."
Houston reliever Mark Melancon picked up his first career win despite allowing the Mets to tie the contest on David Wright's solo homer to lead off the top of the eighth. Wilton Lopez then came on to notch his first save of the year with a scoreless ninth.
The Mets will be without their regular closer for the remainder of the year, with four-time All-Star Francisco Rodriguez undergoing surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. He suffered the injury as a result of a physical altercation with his girlfriend's father following a game last week.
Rodriguez had been suspended two games by the Mets for his actions, and the club took another step towards distancing themselves from the embattled reliever by placing him on the disqualified list on Tuesday. The move allows New York to convert his contract into one that is not guaranteed.
On the field, Jose Reyes went 2-for-4 with an RBI in last night's loss, the Mets' third in four games and 14th in their past 19 contests on the road. Santana (10-7) allowed nine hits and struck out seven with one walk in his eight innings of work.
"We didn't get any clutch hits," lamented Mets manager Jerry Manuel. "It was good to see David hit a home run. We have to come back tomorrow and keep playing."
Opposing Dickey tonight will be Brett Myers, who's put together a pretty good season of his own for the Astros. The offseason acquisition is 8-7 with a 3.13 ERA over 24 starts and has been sensational on the Minute Maid Park hill.
Myers is 6-0 with a 2.20 ERA in 11 home assignments this year and had won four consecutive starts in Minute Maid Park before collecting a no-decision against Pittsburgh on Friday. He pitched well enough to prevail, however, holding the Pirates to one run and fanning seven batters without a walk.
The right-hander has thrown at least six innings in all 24 of his outings this season, tied with Darryl Kile (May 4-Sept. 2, 1997) for the second-longest streak in Astros history. Larry Dierker holds the record of 26 consecutive such starts, set between June 20, 1969-April 17, 1970.
Myers has made 27 career appearances (20 starts) against New York and owns a 9-6 with a 5.01 ERA over the course of those games.
The Mets had won six straight times over the Astros prior to last night's setback. New York took five of the six meetings between the teams last season.