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Lowrie's RBI single puts Astros up late

HOUSTON -- Astros manager Brad Mills pulled out all the stops Monday night, using seven different pitchers to face seven consecutive Mets late in the game while having his best hitter unsuccessfully try to put down a sacrifice bunt in the eighth inning.

While baseball philosophies and strategies vary from manager to manager and team to team, everyone can agree there is no substitute for speed.

Astros streak-of-lightning center fielder Jordan Schafer reached on an infield single to start the ninth inning, swiped second base and scored the game-winning run on an RBI single through the middle by Jed Lowrie to lift Houston to a 4-3 win over the Mets at Minute Maid Park.

"We're just trying to scrap out a run there," Schafer said. "Luckily, [the catcher] bobbled the ball there because I didn't get the best of jumps. Jed came up with a big hit and we were lucky to get a run there, and [Brett] Myers shut the door for us."

Myers -- the last of Houston's seven pitchers -- slammed the door with a 1-2-3 ninth inning and remains perfect at 5-for-5 in save chances this year. Fernando Rodriguez (1-3) got the final out in the eighth inning to get the win, as the Astros improved to 3-6 in one-run games.

"We're a scrappy club and we're going to fight back," Myers said. "When we come into a situation like that with a tie ballgame and Schafer gets on, I feel like we're going to come through. It's easier for me to start getting ready down there because I know something is going to happen. It's a good advantage for us to have to keep grinding through games and let everybody know we're not to give up."

Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before Schafer broke it up with a line drive single into left field, extending his streak of reaching base in 23 consecutive games to begin the season. Dickey gave the Astros fits for much of the game.

"His knuckleball was moving all over the place tonight," Schafer said. "It probably didn't help we kept the roof open tonight. That's probably not the smartest thing we've done. It helped that knuckleball move quite a bit more. He threw really well tonight. He kept us off balance and was throwing knuckleballs over the middle of the plate that were bouncing around our bats."

Schafer moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Jose Altuve and took third on a heads-up play on a Lowrie blooper to left before scoring on a Travis Buck fielder's choice. Matt Downs slugged a two-run homer later in the inning to give Houston a 3-0 lead.

"He left one up in the zone," Downs said. "With the ball dancing like that, you just close your eyes and hope, I guess. You never know if it's going to dart in, dart out, go up and down. You just find something up in the zone and take a hack at it."

Dickey was left to lament the pitch to Downs, who's homered in consecutive games while starting at first base in place of the injured Carlos Lee.

"Tonight was a night where I literally threw one pitch that I regretted and it got hit out of the park," he said. "Normally that doesn't happen. One more little wiggle to the knuckleball there, [and] he pops that up or he hits it off the end."

The three-run lead appeared as though it would be enough for Astros starter Bud Norris, who had a shutout working through six innings. But Norris couldn't finish the seventh and was pulled after giving up a two-out, two-run single to Kirk Nieuwenhuis that tied the game at 3.

"The whole inning was a tough inning," Norris said. "That's what you're supposed to do as a pitcher is get through those innings. Unfortunately, I've felt in a couple of starts this year I haven't been able to get that extra pitch to get out of that jam. The pitch to Nieuwenhuis was a decent pitch but he put a good barrel on it. I'm almost over the hump. It's not like I've been all over the place and not competitive."

Schafer started the eighth by beating out a dribbler to third base without even attracting a throw. Altuve popped up a bunt that was caught for an easy out, but Schafer promptly stole second base. On the next pitch, Lowrie -- batting left-handed -- lined a single into center and made a winner out of the Astros.

"Even with him on first, I'm looking for a pitch to drive," said Lowrie, who went 2-for-4. "I got a fastball in that situation and hit it back up the middle, which is my strength anyway. I was able to come through with a big hit."

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