Mets drop Houston opener

Mets Notes & Quotes for July 29: Carlos Beltran is an easy target in his Houston return... Doug Mientkiewicz rides the pine in favor of Marlon Anderson... Jason Scobie wins lucky No. 13 for Norfolk...

Carlos Beltran made for the likely target, with Astros fans buying up semi-vulgar T-shirts in bulk and booing not only the 28-year-old's at-bats, but every time the Astros hit a ball to center field.

And as if that wasn't enough to tempt the rules of karma, the home crowd was still left cheering at the end.

Brad Ausmus' run-scoring single off Roberto Hernandez with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning was the difference on Thursday, leading Houston to a 3-2 win over the already-road weary Mets.

New York dropped two of three to the Colorado Rockies earlier in the week and have now lost the first of four games in Houston, with tough customers Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt following Wandy Rodriguez on Friday.

The Mets got the benefit of another strong effort from their own ace, Pedro Martinez, who allowed only one hit until Adam Everett homered with two outs in the fifth.

Overall, Martinez made the ball dance and geared up for some of his highest radar gun readings in weeks, allowing two runs and four hits through eight innings, striking out eight in a 117-pitch effort before yielding to Hernandez (5-4) for the ninth inning.

Rookie Ezequiel Astacio was up to the challenge for Houston, limiting the Mets to a run on four hits through six innings, striking out five. Former Met Dan Wheeler (1-2) picked up the win with 1-2/3 innings of relief.

Mets Notes

Doug out: It should come as no surprise, but Mets manager Willie Randolph has apparently officially soured on 1B Doug Mientkiewicz.

Hitting just .225 for the season (but .263 since coming off the disabled list), Mientkiewicz was on the bench Thursday night, with the left-handed hitting Marlon Anderson in the lineup.

Mientkiewicz tried to take the strong indications in stride.

"We're trying to win games here," Mientkiewicz told reporters. "Would I like to be in there every day? Yeah, of course. Everybody would. But that's why it's called a team and not the New York Mientkiewiczs."

Minor League Report

TRIPLE-A NORFOLK: Jason Scobie (13-4) tossed another win onto the pile for Norfolk Thursday, chalking up 6-2/3 shutout innings to earn the victory in a 4-0 decision over Toledo. Scobie allowed four hits and struck out four in the effort, lowering his ERA to 3.22, while Chris Basak hit his sixth home run and Eric Valent had two RBI for Norfolk.

DOUBLE-A BINGHAMTON: Lastings Milledge tied the game with a run-scoring single in the top of the ninth inning, but Altoona came back with a run in the bottom of the frame against Jose Rodriguez, nipping the B-Mets with a 5-4 loss Thursday. Jay Caligiuri had two hits, including a triple, and an RBI in the loss.

SINGLE-A ST. LUCIE: Jamar Hill sent the winning run across the plate with a single in the bottom of the ninth inning, leading St. Lucie to an 8-7 win over Sarasota. Chuck Smith started for the Mets and received a no-decision, allowing three runs and five hits in seven innings.

SINGLE-A HAGERSTOWN: The Suns were rained out at Kannapolis. The game will be made up as part of a 6:05 p.m. doubleheader on Saturday.

SINGLE-A BROOKLYN: Hudson Valley pushed across five runs in the top of the 11th inning against Kyle Risinger (1-2) Thursday, leading the Renegades to an 11-6 win over Brooklyn. Jonel Pacheco and Ivan Naccarata homered for the Cyclones.

ROOKIE-LEAGUE KINGSPORT: The K-Mets were rained out at Greeneville on Thursday. The game will be made up as a doubleheader on Friday.

GULF COAST LEAGUE: Leivi Ventura cracked a solo homer in the top of the 10th inning, leading the GCL Mets past the GCL Nationals Wednesday, 5-4. Grady Hinchman (1-1) picked up the win with 3-2/3 innings of scoreless relief, while Yasmil Bucce added three hits for the Mets.

VENEZUELAN SUMMER LEAGUE: Manuel Olivares (3-4) allowed five runs (three earned) and six hits in 4-1/3 innings Thursday, taking the loss as the VSL Mets fell to the VSL Astros, 5-1. David Rivas drove in the only run for the Mets.

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