Updated: 8/18/10 7:39 a.m.
HOUSTON (AP/WFAN) — The Houston Astros couldn’t string much together against Johan Santana.
Hunter Pence made sure they didn’t really need to.
Pence had a three-run homer in the first inning and his go-ahead solo shot in the eighth inning propelled the Houston Astros to a 4-3 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday night.
The game was tied at 3-3 before Pence’s shot to left field off Santana (10-7) put Houston on top.
“Once I got 0-2, I said: ‘All right, you have to shorten up and find a way to see if you can battle him and fight, claw and scratch,”‘ Pence said. “Somehow, I fouled off a really tough pitch 0-2, the first pitch he threw me. From there, I was ready to swing. Whatever the last pitch was I’m not sure, I found a way to get a swing on it and put it in play.”
Santana was disappointed he let the win get away.
“I knew that in this ballpark you have to throw the right pitch,” he said. “If you put the ball in play it has a very good chance to be a homer and that was the case. He just put enough swing to hit it out. That’s the nature of this ballpark.”
David Wright hit a solo home run in the eighth inning for his first RBI since July 31st to tie it at 3-all. Wright’s homer, off Mark Melancon (1-0), was to left field.
Pence gave Houston an early lead with a three-run home run to left field in the first inning. That home run broke a streak of 16 1-3 scoreless innings for Santana (10-7).
“He’s been hitting the ball real well for the last week,” Houston manager Brad Mills said of Pence. “Anytime you get your number three hitter doing that, something is going to happen.”
Santana allowed nine hits and four runs with seven strikeouts in his first outing since throwing a four-hitter in a 4-0 win over the Rockies. Once an Astros minor league prospect, Santana went eight innings for his 12th career complete game and third this season.
“A little struggle there at the beginning, gave up the three runs, and then settled in and pitched very well,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. “We felt very good with him going back out there.”
Wilton Lopez got his first save, retiring Jose Reyes on a foul out down the left field line with the tying run on second.
“I was pretty excited to save the game,” Lopez said in Spanish. “I was happy. Anytime I need to pitch an inning, I do the best I can.”
Michael Bourn and Angel Sanchez hit back-to-back singles to set up Pence’s first homer. Carlos Lee doubled when Fernando Martinez missed his fly ball to left field, but Santana retired the next three Astros to get out of the inning.
Josh Thole singled in the second before a double by Santana with one out in the second inning. A groundout by Reyes sent Thole home to get New York within 3-2.
Reyes hit a leadoff single and advanced to second on a passed ball. He scored on a single to center field by Martinez to make it 1-0 in the first inning.
Nelson Figueroa, who had his start pushed back from Saturday because of migraine-like symptoms, allowed four hits and two runs in five innings. It was his first start this season for the Astros.
“I threw a lot more pitches than I wanted to throw in such a short amount of time,” Figueroa said. “For my first start, I’ll take it. I put us in a position to win, and Hunter Pence did the rest.”
Santana gave up a double to Geoff Blum with one out in the fourth inning before retiring the next nine batters. The next hit came on a ground-rule double by Jason Castro that landed just inside the right field line with one out in the seventh inning. He walked Jason Michaels before Bourn grounded into a double play to end the inning.
NOTES: The Mets announced on Tuesday that they are withholding injured closer Francisco Rodriguez’s salary while he’s not playing. Rodriguez was placed on the disqualified list six days after he tore a ligament in the thumb of his pitching hand while punching his girlfriend’s father outside a family lounge at Citi Field. Rodriguez had surgery Tuesday to repair the self-inflicted injury and is expected to miss the rest of the season. … The Astros were awaiting results of an MRI to determine the severity of the injury to 2B Jeff Keppinger’s his left big toe. He wore a boot on his left foot on Tuesday. … New York C Rod Barajas (left oblique strain) is hitting .250 with a home run and five RBIs in four rehabilitation games for Single-A St. Lucie.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)