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Mets fall to Astros, but April is a winner

New York Mets' Josh Thole (30) is tagged

New York Mets' Josh Thole (30) is tagged out by Houston Astros starting pitcher Bud Norris (20) during the seventh inning. (April 30, 2012) Credit: AP

HOUSTON -- Sure, the Mets would have liked to have beaten the Astros Monday night instead of losing, 4-3.

But the Mets, a team that many figured to be among the National League's bottom-feeders, were proud of finishing April with a 13-10 record -- good enough for a wild-card spot if the season lasted only one month.

Of course, the regular season has five full months to go and even stretches into early October this year. But the Mets didn't hang their heads over one defeat, especially after they battled back from a 3-0 deficit.

Eventually, they were done in by a man named Jed. Manny Acosta gave up a tiebreaking RBI single to Jed Lowrie in the eighth inning as the Astros eked out the victory before 17,536 at Minute Maid Park.

"I'm very pleased with the first month of the season," manager Terry Collins said. "What we've gone through so far -- we've had some of our key guys banged up, we've had a couple of our guys that we've expected to really swing the bats for us haven't -- in the meantime, some guys have picked up the load and carried us. We're sitting here right now going into the month of May in pretty good shape."

R.A. Dickey tried to make a little history in the first game of the Mets' final trip to Houston as a National League city. Dickey no-hit the Astros for five innings, allowing two walks and striking out six, but gave up a flare single to left to Jordan Schafer on the first pitch of the sixth.

The Astros, who are moving to the AL West next season, went on to score three runs in the inning to take a 3-0 lead.

Houston and the Mets both joined the NL in 1962 and are celebrating their 50th anniversaries. The Astros, who came into existence as the Colt 45s, have thrown 10 no-hitters, including one each by former Mets Nolan Ryan and Mike Scott.

The Mets have never thrown a no-hitter.

After Schafer's single and a sacrifice bunt, Lowrie blooped a hit to leftfield between Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Ruben Tejada to move Schafer to third.

Nieuwenhuis was making his first professional appearance in left as the Mets activated centerfielder Andres Torres off the disabled list before the game. Nieuwenhuis hesitated on the ball and lamented that fact after the game.

"I should have caught it," he said. "I should have charged in a little harder."

Travis Buck followed with a fielder's-choice grounder to give the Astros a 1-0 lead. Harmless enough.

But Matt Downs, filling in for the injured Carlos Lee at first base, slugged a two-run homer to left to make it 3-0.

"Tonight was a night where I literally threw one pitch that I regretted and it got hit out of the park," Dickey said. "One more little wiggle to the knuckleball there, he pops that up or he hits that off the end."

The Mets responded with three runs in the seventh. Torres drove in the first run with an infield single and Nieuwenhuis tied the score with a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single to right.

Tejada, with a chance to put the Mets ahead, lined to third against reliever Wilton Lopez.

Acosta (0-2), in his second inning of work, gave up an infield single to Schafer to lead off the eighth. Schafer stole second uncontested -- Josh Thole couldn't handle the pitch -- and scored the eventual winner on Lowrie's hit to center.

Collins stayed with Acosta because his bullpen was a little short; closer Frank Francisco was unavailable because of a slight hamstring strain and the relievers were a little beat up after the Mets' weekend series at Coors Field.

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