Houston saw the Mets score eight unanswered runs and watched an early three-run lead evaporate, dropping its first series at home since June 25 with an 8-3 loss at Minute Maid Park in the final game of a six-game homestand.
"I thought we just didn't execute pitches," manager Cecil Cooper said. "We gave up 18 runs in two days and they are missing three regulars from their lineup, four if you count [Gary] Sheffield. We just didn't do a good job pitching, and that's the bottom line."
For the third consecutive game, the Astros scored at least a run in their first at-bat. But unlike their two previous games against the Mets, the first would be the only inning in which they produced runs.
Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee and Geoff Blum jumped on a doubles-carousel, notching three consecutive run-scoring two-base hits to put the Astros in front by three in the first. Houston had an opportunity to score more runs, but ran itself out of the inning. Blum was thrown out at home plate on a single by Hunter Pence, who was then caught stealing to end the frame.
"They made the plays and got me at home with a good play, and Hunter running into that last out was tough," Blum said. "But we hit the ball good enough, and there was no reason for us not to score any more runs after the first. We're a good enough ballclub that we should be able to score after that."
The Astros looked to be in good shape with a three-run cushion and starter Brian Moehler on the mound. Houston had won 10 of Moehler's past 13 starts, and he entered 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA in his past seven outings.
But the right-hander was unable to make the lead stand up, allowing five runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings in his 300th career appearance on a big league mound.
"I did nothing right," Moehler said. "I was up in the zone, couldn't field my position [and was] behind in the count. Absolutely nothing was working and I didn't have it. I didn't pitch smart, and it just was a poor effort."
Moehler (7-6) hit a rough patch in the third. Going through the Mets' order for the second time, he surrendered back-to-back run-scoring hits to Luis Castillo and David Wright, and then a sacrifice fly to Jeff Francoeur, allowing the Mets to tie the game at 3.
New York added two more runs in the fourth to take the lead. Angel Pagan crushed a two-out RBI triple over center fielder Michael Bourn's head and then scored on a squeeze bunt by Castillo. Moehler's toss home on the bunt beat Pagan to the plate, but it squirted away from catcher Ivan Rodriguez, allowing the Mets to take a 5-3 lead.
"I don't know what happened in the third and it kind of got away from Mo, and then in the fourth we allowed one run to score and gifted them another one," Cooper said. "It was just one of those days where things don't go right."
The Mets put the game away with three runs off Alberto Arias, who had not allowed an earned run in his past 22 appearances.
Relievers Wesley Wright and Jeff Fulchino kept the Astros within striking distance in the middle innings, but Houston's batters couldn't capitalize on opportunities to come back against Mets starter Livan Hernandez.
Hernandez scattered four hits after the first inning and struck out seven to hand Houston consecutive losses for just the fifth time in the past two months.
"[Livan] is a good pitcher and he started using all his pitches to get guys out," Rodriguez said. "The Mets have always had a good team, and we can't take anything for granted. While we came ready to play, they came ready to play too this weekend and beat us twice."
Jason Grodsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.