Mets can't close deal vs. Astros

HOUSTON -- Third baseman David Wright had yet to drive in a run this month until the eighth inning Tuesday, when his solo homer tied the New York Mets' game with the Houston Astros.

On a day the Mets announced they would not pay closer Francisco Rodriguez until he could play, there was no euphoric ending.

Hunter Pence produced a solo homer into the short porch in left field at Minute Maid Park off Johan Santana a half inning after Wright's shot, and the Mets lost to the Astros 4-3.

It is hardly relevant anymore, but the Mets (59-60) dipped back under .500. They now are a season-high 11 games behind the first-place Atlanta Braves in the National League East. In a no-win situation in the wild-card race with co-leaders San Francisco and Philadelphia squaring off, the Mets fell to 8½ games behind the Phillies, who defeated the Giants.

Wright's previous homer had come July 30 against the Arizona Diamondbacks, when he twice went deep against Ian Kennedy. His 51 at-bat RBI drought was the longest of his career.

Wright appeared to be standing closer to the plate, although hitting coach Howard Johnson said he did not observe that. Instead, HoJo suggested, the difference was Wright's legs being less spread apart.

"There are so many variables in putting up numbers," Wright said. "Really, it is what it is. I try to be a guy that drives in runs, scores runs. Obviously, I haven't been driving in too many runs lately. But hopefully offensively we can get going, because when the offense clicks, it seems like things flow a little bit better. Right now it's just been a rough go of it for us as an offense overall. We need to get back to that point where we're putting men in scoring position on a regular basis and stealing some bases and running the bases like we're capable. We get runners on few and far between when we struggle, and that's not the kind of offense we are."

Pence drove in all four runs against the Mets, three on a first-inning homer against Santana and the other on the tiebreaking short-porch homer to left in the eighth on a full-count slider.

"I knew that in this ballpark you have to try to throw the right pitch," Santana said. "If they put the ball in play, it has a pretty good chance to be a homer, and that was the case. We threw him a slider in the at-bat before, and we had him with one of them. And on that one he just put enough swing to hit it out. That's the nature of this ballpark."

Said Thole: "We were trying to go down and in with his breaking ball. We felt like we got a lot of swings and misses throughout the whole game with his slider. It was headed there. He just hit it before it got to his back foot.

"It's frustrating, to say the least. He pitched so well. The first inning he had a little bump, a little hiccup. And after that he was outstanding. He was the Johan that everybody knows. It kind of takes the air out of you, especially after David just hit that home run."

Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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