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El Duque gets going after slow start to pitch Mets to win

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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NEW YORK -- One minute, Orlando Hernandez was in trouble. By the second inning, he was in control.

El Duque overcame a shaky start and Xavier Nady hit a three-run homer to lead the New York Mets past the slumping Houston Astros 4-3 Saturday.

Carlos Delgado added a sacrifice fly, helping the NL East-leading Mets to their third consecutive victory and 11th in 15 games. They improved to a season-best 21 games over .500, thanks to Hernandez's quick recovery.

"He looked like the Duque that I know," New York manager Willie Randolph said.

Houston starter Brandon Backe came off the disabled list and lasted four innings in his first start in more than three months. The Astros dropped their third straight and ninth in 12 games to fall a season-worst six games below .500.

"Just pull out your notes from yesterday," manager Phil Garner said. "I don't have any new answers."

A two-run homer by Lance Berkman and a solo shot by Preston Wilson off Hernandez (6-8) in the first gave Backe a 3-0 lead.

But after Delgado's sacrifice fly in the bottom half, Backe (1-1) ran into trouble in the fourth. He issued a leadoff walk to Delgado before Cliff Floyd singled. Nady then drove a 2-2 pitch over the left-field fence for his career-best 14th homer and a 4-3 New York lead.

"I had it tonight. I just let it slip away with one pitch, a slider," Backe said. "We had him set up perfectly for a front-door slider. I just didn't execute the pitch. I dragged it and it came back over the plate."

Hernandez made the lead hold up, striking out eight in seven solid innings. He yielded only four hits and walked two, rebounding from a poor performance at Wrigley Field in his previous outing.

The right-hander has gone at least seven innings in four of his past six starts, allowing three runs or fewer in each of those four outings.

In his other two starts during that stretch, he's lasted only 1 2/3 innings each time.

"I'm feeling good. That's more important than anything," Hernandez said.

El Duque followed John Maine four-hitter in a 7-0 victory Friday night, giving the Mets consecutive strong outings from the unsettled back end of their rotation.

"What he did today was just about as impressive as what John Maine did yesterday," New York closer Billy Wagner said. "It was impressive to see him go out there and compete.

"That's what big-game pitchers are about."

Duaner Sanchez tossed a scoreless eighth and Wagner got three outs in a steady rain for his 20th save in 24 chances. It also was his first save against his former team.

"When you have to face those guys you just want to get it over with and win the game," Wagner said.

Backe allowed four runs, four hits and four walks in his first outing since April 13 in San Francisco. The right-hander left that start after only two innings because of soreness in his pitching elbow and wound up on the 60-day DL with a sprained right elbow.

Backe went 10-8 with a 4.76 ERA for the NL champion Astros last year.

"I felt great. I was very excited out there. I was thrilled to be back out there in a major league ballgame," he said. "No pain in my arm today, 69 pitches today. It should be pretty good for my next start. I really feel good."

Craig Biggio drew a leadoff walk in the first from Hernandez. One out later, Berkman hit his 26th homer over the right-field fence, giving him 87 RBI.

Wilson connected with two outs for his 22nd career homer against the Mets, but Hernandez put up zeros from there on.

"After that, he was able to really bear down," Biggio said. "I think we got one walk after that. His location was a little bit better. He elevates really well, and it's tough, especially for right-handers, to pick up the ball. He just seemed to settle down."

The start was delayed 57 minutes by rain. Showers delayed the start of Friday night's game for 54 minutes.

Notes

  • New York improved to 21-9 in one-run games, the most such wins in the majors.
  • Mets 3B David Wright got a day off.
  • New York RHP Pedro Martinez, on the disabled list with a sore right hip, threw 80 pitches in a simulated game and said he felt strong. He threw all his pitches and said he'd like to start next weekend in Atlanta, as long as he keeps feeling good.
  • Berkman made a nice running catch of Carlos Beltran's drive to deep right-center, ending the third.
  • Attendance was 46,574.
 
Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Orlando Hernandez has his good stuff against the Astros -- he strikes out eight in seven innings.  (AP)
Orlando Hernandez has his good stuff against the Astros -- he strikes out eight in seven innings. (AP)

Players of the Game
New York

X. Nady
AB 3
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 3
Houston

L. Berkman
AB 4
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
 

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Houston Astros
Craig Biggio, 2B3100111 .262
Mike Lamb, 1B4010001 .319
Lance Berkman, RF4112021 .316
Aubrey Huff, 3B4000011 .275
Preston Wilson, CF4111020 .277
Luke Scott, LF4010000 .308
Brad Ausmus, C4010011 .244
Adam Everett, SS3010112 .238
Brandon Backe, P1000011 .000
   a- Willy Taveras, PH1000010 .257
    Dave Borkowski, P0000000 .000
   b- Orlando Palmeiro, PH1000001 .216
    Chad Qualls, P0000000 .000
    Trever Miller, P0000000 .000
    Russ Springer, P0000000 .000
Totals333632109 
a-struck out for Backe in the 5th
b-flied out for Borkowski in the 7th
Batting
2B - Adam Everett (16, Hernandez)
HR - Lance Berkman (26, Hernandez), Preston Wilson (9, Hernandez)
RBI - Lance Berkman 2 (87), Preston Wilson (51)
2-OUT RBI - Preston Wilson (24)
Team LOB - 5
Houston Astros
Brandon Backe (L,1-1) 4444431 4.50
Dave Borkowski 2000020 3.76
Chad Qualls 1.1100020 3.40
Trever Miller 0.1100010 4.67
Russ Springer 0.1000110 3.79
Pitches-Strikes - Brandon Backe 69-36, Dave Borkowski 25-16, Chad Qualls 26-17, Trever Miller 9-7, Russ Springer 9-5
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Brandon Backe 3-5, Dave Borkowski 2-2, Chad Qualls 2-0
Batters Faced - Brandon Backe 19, Dave Borkowski 6, Chad Qualls 5, Trever Miller 2, Russ Springer 2
New York Mets
Jose Reyes, SS4010021 .293
Jose Valentin, 2B2110200 .286
Carlos Beltran, CF4010012 .278
Carlos Delgado, 1B2111110 .250
Cliff Floyd, LF4110023 .248
Xavier Nady, RF3113000 .270
    Duaner Sanchez, P0000000 .000
   a- Julio Franco, PH0000100 .269
    Billy Wagner, P0000000 .000
Chris Woodward, 3B3000113 .230
Ramon Castro, C3000011 .237
Orlando Hernandez, P1000010 .160
   b- Endy Chavez, PH-RF1000000 .286
Totals274645910 
a-walked for Sanchez in the 8th
b-grounded out for Hernandez in the 7th
Batting
HR - Xavier Nady (14, Backe)
SF - Carlos Delgado (6)
SH - Orlando Hernandez (4)
RBI - Carlos Delgado (62), Xavier Nady 3 (38)
CS - Jose Reyes (10, 2nd base by Backe/Ausmus)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Valentin-Reyes-Delgado
E - Jose Reyes (9, )
New York Mets
Orlando Hernandez (W,6-8) 7433282 5.40
Duaner Sanchez (H,13) 1100010 2.75
Billy Wagner (S,20) 1100010 2.42
Pitches-Strikes - Orlando Hernandez 105-70, Duaner Sanchez 14-10, Billy Wagner 19-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Orlando Hernandez 5-8, Billy Wagner 1-1
Batters Faced - Orlando Hernandez 27, Duaner Sanchez 4, Billy Wagner 4
Game Information
Attendance - 46574
Game Time - 2:45
Temperature - 79
Umpires - Home - Mike Winters, First Base - Brian Runge, Second Base - Bruce Froemming, Third Base - Paul Emmel