Mike Pelfrey throws eight strong to help Mets halt Astros

NEW YORK -- Mike Pelfrey nearly made the All-Star team with a terrific first half, then took a seven-start stumble that threatened to ruin his season.

He's determined to avoid that kind of letdown again.

Pelfrey allowed six hits in eight shutout innings and the New York Mets took advantage of a wild outing by former teammate Nelson Figueroa and a big baserunning blunder by Chris Johnson to end the Houston Astros' five-game winning streak, 2-1 on Friday night.

"I got so far away from being myself and doing what I did early in the year and being successful. I've gotten back to that," Pelfrey said. "The next time there's some adversity or struggles, it shouldn't be from getting away from doing what makes me me."

Pelfrey (13-7) started the season 10-2, then went through a stretch of seven abysmal starts. But he's rebounded with four outings of at least seven innings.

This time, he threw a career-high 124 pitches and shut down an Astros squad that was coming off a four-game sweep in Philadelphia. The 26-year-old right-hander matched his major league best for wins, striking out four and walking two. He was 13-11 in 2008, his first full season in the rotation.

Mets manager Jerry Manuel credited Pelfrey's "aggressiveness in the strike zone" for his resurgence.

Johnson jogged through a stop sign at third base thinking there were three outs in the fourth inning and was caught in a rundown when right fielder Jeff Francoeur made a strong throw to home plate. Johnson thought Angel Sanchez's single was caught by Francoeur on a fly.

"It was a screw-up on my part. I got a bad read. He had his hands up so I thought he caught the ball," Johnson said.

Francoeur said he saw the third base coach's hands up to stop Johnson.

"I didn't know what ... was going on," Francoeur said. "It worked out nice."

Angel Pagan and Ruben Tejada made nice defensive plays behind Pelfrey, and Hisanori Takahashi relieved Bobby Parnell with runners at the corners and one out in the ninth before earning his second save.

After giving up a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, Takahashi got Sanchez to pop out to shortstop and struck out pinch-hitter Tommy Manzella to end it.

Facing the club that drafted him, rescued him in 2008 from a four-year international exile and ultimately cut him in April, Figueroa (3-2) was hurt by a lack of control. He gave up only three hits in seven innings but made several poor throws that led to the Mets' two runs.

"It was one play in the first inning when the ball doesn't go very far but it scores a run ... and I gave them a run in the fourth," Figueroa said. "I've got to go back and work on some timing issues and maybe some command."

Luis Castillo, back in a starting role because Jose Reyes aggravated a right oblique injury Thursday night, singled in the first. Figueroa's pickoff attempt to first base was off its mark and Castillo moved up a base on the error. He then raced to third on a wild pitch.

David Wright followed with a sacrifice fly, a popup to shallow center that second baseman Anderson Hernandez lunged at for an over-the-shoulder catch before making a weak throw up the third base line.

In the fourth, Figueroa walked two and gave up a single to Francoeur to load the bases. With Tejada up -- coming in, he was 1 for 36 since being recalled from Triple-A Buffalo on Aug. 7 -- Figueroa threw ball four on a full-count pitch to make it 2-0.

Figueroa, who grew up in Coney Island, walked five and hit a batter with a pitch in his third start for the Astros. He said his dad was rooting for the Mets.

"Figgy did a good job, but at the same time, he was ahead in the count on those guys I think on all five walks," Astros manager Brad Mills said.

Francoeur's single in the fourth came after his throw home in the top half.

Game notes
Defending U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters threw out the ceremonial first pitch, from the top of the mound. ... The Mets purchased the contract of infielder Luis Hernandez from Triple-A Buffalo to provide some infield depth while Reyes sits out. To make room for him, New York sent outfielder Jesus Feliciano to Buffalo. ... Astros reliever Matt Lindstrom (lower back strain) and INF Jeff Keppinger (left big toe) should both be ready to return from the disabled list next week. ... The Mets introduced their No. 1 pick in the June draft, RHP Matt Harvey. The seventh overall selection out of North Carolina will begin his career in the Instructional League.