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Astros, Mets battle for series win at Citi Field

Rookie right-hander Jeremy Hefner makes his first career appearance against the Houston Astros today when the New York Mets host them in the finale of a three-game weekend series at Citi Field.

It's the last time the Astros and Mets will meet as National League opponents with Houston's impending move to the American League next season.

They've faced each other 566 times in the regular season since 1962, with the Astros holding a 308-257 lead. The teams also met in the 1986 National League Championship Series - a six-game classic won by the Mets en route to the World Series title against Boston.

Hefner, who was seven months old when that NLCS took place, makes the eighth start of a big-league career that began with three innings of scoreless three- hit ball against the San Francisco Giants on April 23.

He's mixed seven starts in with 12 relief appearances along the way while allowing 76 hits and 37 runs in 61 2/3 innings with 10 walks and 36 strikeouts.

In his last outing, at Washington on Aug. 19, he was touched for five runs on eight hits in five innings of a 5-2 loss. His last win came Aug. 4 in San Diego, when he gave up a single run on five hits in six innings.

Hefner was drafted by the Mets in 2004 and 2005, but did not sign. He agreed to a deal with San Diego after he was chosen in the fifth round in 2007, but was waived by both the Padres and Pittsburgh before signing with the Mets in December 2011.

In 141 career minor-league outings, he's 51-36 with a 3.75 earned run average.

He's opposed by 27-year-old Lucas Harrell, who faces the Mets for the first time in his 43rd big-league outing.

The former Chicago White Sox draft pick won three of four decisions to get to 10 wins - a career best - in mid-August, but was ripped for six runs in five innings of a 7-0 loss at St. Louis in his last start Aug. 21.

The defeat broke a string of seven straight starts in which he'd allowed two runs or less, in which the Astros were 3-4.

In 151 1/3 innings this season, Harrell has allowed a .258 opposition batting average - 15 points lower than his career mark of .273.

On Saturday, R.A. Dickey tossed seven innings of one-run ball and added an RBI single to lead the Mets past the Astros, 3-1.

Dickey (16-4) scattered five hits and a walk after retiring the first 10 batters he faced. Frank Francisco worked a perfect ninth to record his 21st save of the season.

Justin Turner homered for New York, which scored more than two runs for the first time in eight games to snap a season-high tying six-game losing streak.

Fernando Abad (0-1) allowed one run on four hits and four walks over four innings in his first major league start for the Astros, who have dropped eight of their last nine.

"My whole family was here," Abad said. "I wanted to throw five innings and get a win, but that's part of the game."

Houston swept a three-game set from the Mets at Minute Maid Park between April 30 and May 2, outscoring New York, 18-7. The teams split last season's series, 3-3, and New York won by a 4-3 count in 2010.