- Adam Rubin, ESPNNewYork.com
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The end of New York Mets' season will come after 33 more games.
Santana surrendered a two-run homer to Carlos Lee in the fifth inning and the Mets stranded a runner at second base in four straight frames in a 4-1 loss to the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Citi Field.
Santana (10-9) has lost three straight decisions for only the fourth time in his career.
"I'm not perfect," Santana said. "You're going to give up some runs out there. It's just how you manage to [go] as deep as you can in the game and hoping your team at some point will come back and score some runs. It wasn't the case tonight."
Said manager Jerry Manuel: "These last five or six starts that he hasn't gotten nothing to show for it is basically because we haven't hit. You can expect every now and then he'd have a two-run inning here or there. For the most part, I think he's still really continued to pitch well."
The Mets fell to 64-65, although they remained within a game of .500 for a franchise-record 25th straight game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. After completing the homestand with a matchup of R.A. Dickey against Bud Norris on Sunday, the Mets will disappear from the radar with a 10-game trip to Atlanta, Chicago and Washington that coincides with the beginning of the U.S. Open.
Santana entered Saturday having tossed three straight complete games -- the first Mets pitcher to accomplish that feat in a season since David Cone in 1990. Still, Santana actually had suffered losses in the latter two games.
He quickly fell behind Saturday. Santana needed 33 pitches to navigate a first inning in which he allowed run-scoring singles to Lee and Tommy Manzella. Santana has allowed the third-most first-inning runs in the majors this season (25). Only Baltimore's Kevin Millwood (38) and Milwaukee's Dave Bush (28) have allowed more runs in the opening frame, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Santana ultimately was charged with four earned runs and eight hits. He struck out four, walked one and hit a batter in a 101-pitch, seven-inning effort. Lee's homer was his fourth career long ball against Santana, one shy of the five apiece from Magglio Ordonez and Travis Hafner for the most by any player versus the ace.
The Mets finally got on the scoreboard in the eighth inning, when David Wright's single off reliever Wilton Lopez scored Luis Castillo. Wright drove in a run for the fourth straight game. Until Wright's hit, the Mets had been 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. They stranded runners at second base in the second through fifth innings.
Astros right-hander Brett Myers had held the Mets scoreless for seven innings. Myers has completed six innings in each of his 27 starts this season, the longest streak in the majors to open a season since Curt Schilling went 35-for-35 with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2002. Myers' streak also surpassed the Astros' franchise record for consecutive six-plus inning starts at any point. The record previously had been held by Larry Dierker, who had 26 straight six-plus-inning starts in 1969-70.
The Mets stranded nine baserunners Saturday. They are hitting .195 (8-for-41) with runners in scoring position over their past five games.
"We're trying to do all we can to figure that out," Manuel said. "We've done some extra work. We've taken some guys individually. We've got to believe, though, that at some point in these last 30-something games we're going to break out and score about 10 runs."
It was the same old song for Johan Santana. The Mets forgot their bats again.