Mets hope for rebound against hapless Astros

Lefty Jonathon Niese gets a chance to end a prolonged skid for the New York Mets on Friday when they open a three-game series with the Houston Astros at Citi Field.

The Mets have dropped five in a row since Niese's last start on Aug. 18, when he tossed 7 1/3 scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory in Washington.

Niese, 25, has won three of his last four outings to reach 10 wins on the season, toppling San Francisco, Atlanta and the Nationals - around a loss to Miami - while allowing a combined six runs in 28 1/3 innings.

The double-digit output is his second in three full-time seasons with the Mets, who drafted him in the seventh round in 2005 and started him three times as a youngster in 2008.

He won once that season and once more in 2009 before getting nine victories in 30 starts in 2010 and 11 times in 27 outings last season.

Niese is 1-2 in four career starts against the Astros.

He'll be opposed by 21-year-old Jordan Lyles, who's 0-6 in nine starts since his last victory.

The North Carolina native and 2008 draft choice was 2-4 in 2012 after 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 5-3 defeat of San Diego on June 26.

Lyles started the skid on July 2 at Pittsburgh and has since lost to San Diego, Arizona, Milwaukee (twice) and Arizona while watching his earned run average swell from 4.59 to 5.70.

He is 0-6 in nine road starts this season and has never faced the Mets.

On Thursday in St. Louis, Matt Holliday highlighted a five-run fifth inning with a go-ahead three-run double as the Cardinals finished off a three-game sweep of the Astros with a 13-5 rout at Busch Stadium.

Jose Altuve went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI, while Scott Moore and starter Dallas Keuchel added RBI for the Astros, who lost for the seventh consecutive time.

Keuchel (1-6) allowed six runs - five earned - on five hits and a walk over just four-plus innings.

"Keuchel pitched good through the first three innings," Astros interim manager Tony DeFrancesco said. "I was pleased, he kept the ball down, but you get to the fourth inning and we had a two-out walk. Molina hits a double down the line, and then a three-run homer and they're back in the game."

Meanwhile, in New York, Chris Nelson's RBI single in the eighth inning was the difference as the Colorado Rockies completed a four-game sweep of the Mets with a 1-0 victory.

Collin McHugh made his major league debut for New York and gave up just two hits and a walk while striking out nine over seven innings in a no-decision.

"I was really impressed," Mets manager Terry Collins said about McHugh. "He did exactly what we wanted him to do."

Bobby Parnell (2-3) surrendered the game's lone run to take the loss for the Mets, who have dropped five straight.

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.