New York Mets' Jose Reyes (7) slides into third base...

New York Mets' Jose Reyes (7) slides into third base after hitting a triple as Houston Astros third baseman Chris Johnson, right, handles the throw from the outfield during the third inning. (Aug. 18, 2010) Credit: AP

PITTSBURGH - Before Friday's game at PNC Park, there was a repetitive thud from behind a clubhouse door, where Jose Reyes was working his oblique muscles by slamming a medicine ball into the concrete wall. The shortstop was using the exercises to loosen up before batting practice, a routine he added to his daily regimen after returning from the oblique strain he suffered June 30. Now that he is over that problem and again is comfortable sliding headfirst, Reyes is stealing bases at a more rapid rate.

Reyes stole a base in the first inning Friday. In nine games since Aug. 12, he is 6-for-8 in steals, as compared with 2-for-3 in the previous 26 games.

"First, I didn't have confidence in my legs," Reyes said of his slow start to the season, "and then I had the oblique problem. But the last couple of weeks, I've been putting everything together and . . . I'm going to be more aggressive."

Reyes still does exercises to strengthen his hamstrings two or three times a week. He never had an oblique problem before this season, so he didn't think that was an area of concern. But after dealing with a number of injuries, he is quick to adjust.

As an example, he pointed to the plastic cleats in his locker. Reyes hasn't worn metal spikes since his rookie year of 2003, when a severe ankle sprain ended his season. He has learned to do whatever he can to stay on the field, and Reyes, whose first-inning steal gave him 27 for the year, wants to pick up the pace.

"I always have 40-something at this time," he said. "I have to push it and help us try to score some runs."

Frenchy's follies

Jeff Francoeur had a Carl Pavano-inspired mustache before the game after messing up a goatee. "It's a tribute to HoJo," Francoeur said, with a nod to beleaguered hitting coach Howard Johnson.