HOUSTON - When Mike Cameron noticed that the New York Mets’ lineup card was posted Sunday morning, he took a quick glance, then did a double take.
Making sure that really was his name in the sixth spot, he said, “OK,” smiled and stretched his arms.
So maybe it wasn’t just a coincidence that a few hours later, shortly after the trade deadline passed, he led off the eighth inning with a double off the wall and turned it into the pivotal go-ahead run in a 9-4 victory that ended the Houston Astros’ seven-game winning streak.
Cameron, the Mets’ most prominent player mentioned in trade talks, insisted afterward that his focus was strictly on baseball, but New York sure played like a relaxed team — not one going into the finale of a seven-game road trip having won just once, plus facing the looming threat of a roster shake-up to add Manny Ramirez or Dannys Baez.
The Mets gave Astros starter Roy Oswalt his worst pounding at home since opening day, then still had to get a bloop single from seldom starter Ramon Castro to take their first lead since the early innings Thursday night. Once ahead, they added four more runs in the ninth, the same amount they’d scored, total, over the previous three games. New York finished with a season-high 17 hits.
“I think it’s all coincidental,” manager Willie Randolph said. “That’s just the way it falls sometimes.”
Houston lost for only the second time in 15 games. Still, the Astros went 22-7 in July for their most wins and highest winning percentage ever in the month. More importantly, they go into August leading in the wild-card race.
“They’ve been stingy and they’ll do it again,” Astros manager Phil Garner said of a relief corps that had given up only four runs in its previous 29 innings.
Cameron said before Saturday’s game that he hadn’t slept because he was getting so many calls as word spread that he might be headed to Boston for Ramirez. He said he thought he could handle it, but couldn’t. He then went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
On Sunday, he was 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored. Two of his hits came after the deadline passed.
“We just decided that we were going to have to go out there and take it,” Cameron said. “We faced a tough pitcher and we fought it out and came back and figured out how to win it. ... We got good hits from everyone and we just stood our ground.”
The game was therapeutic for several other Mets, too.
Carlos Beltran, booed all four games by an Astros series-record crowd of 172,835, was 3-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a stolen base.
“He just needed a good game to get going — not just against the Astros, against anybody,” Randolph said.
Doug Mientkiewicz, making his first start since being ejected Wednesday night, also went 3-for-5.
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