Johnson, Astros proving to be tough foes

Johnson, Astros proving to be tough foes

Johnson, Astros proving to be tough foes
HOUSTON -- Opposing teams had better be warned. The 2012 version of the Houston Astros are a vastly improved lot from last year's club that lost a franchise-worst 106 games.

It wasn't long ago when teams came into Minute Maid Park thinking they'd have an easy time with the Astros. That doesn't appear to be the case this year.

"We don't mind if people think they can come in here and get a couple of wins off us," said Astros third baseman Chris Johnson. "We don't care what other teams think. We're just going to try to win every series."

And that's just what Johnson and company did on Wednesday. Aided by Johnson's two home runs, six RBIs and four hits, the Astros blasted the New York Mets, 8-1, on Wednesday afternoon, sweeping the three-game series.

The win was the third straight for the Astros (11-14), who accumulated 15 hits in making a winner out of Wandy Rodriguez (3-2), who allowed only one run in seven innings.

Shortstop Jed Lowrie had three hits and three runs for the Astros and Jordan Schafer extended his streak of reaching base safely to start the season to 24 games before leaving the game after four innings due to lower back tightness.

But the day belonged to Johnson, who came into the game homerless in 86 at-bats.

"A special day," said Johnson. "My best day in the big leagues. I've been working on having a better approach. I looked at my stat sheet and saw zero home runs. I'm supposed to drive in runs."

Johnson's three-run homer to left field in the second inning gave the Astros a 3-0 advantage and his blast to left-center in the third -- both off Mets starter Chris Schwinden (0-1) -- staked Rodriguez to an early cushion.

"I felt very comfortable out there with the lead," said Rodriguez, who allowed six hits with five strikeouts and two walks.

The only Met to have any real success off Rodriguez was leadoff hitter Ruben Tejada, who had three hits including two doubles.

The Mets (13-12) were one of the surprise teams in the National League heading into Houston, having won five of their previous six games. But the surprise for the Mets was being swept by Houston and ending their six-game road trip with a 2-4 record.

"They played real well," said Mets third baseman David Wright. "I think they outplayed us in pretty much every part of the game. They played extremely well. We played extremely poorly."

The Astros improved to 7-5 at home and are 6-4 in their last 10 games. Houston's three-game sweep of New York is its first over the Mets since Aug. 1-3, 2008, at Minute Maid Park.

"We've been in every game this year," said Schafer, who was 0-for-1 with two walks on Wednesday. "It's huge for us to [get] this many wins in a row.

"We have a lot of young guys showing they belong in the big leagues. It's nice to see we're getting some results."

For Johnson, it was his first career multi-homer game and his six RBIs are a career high.

Overshadowed by Johnson's big day was Lowrie's three hits, which gave him six multi-hit games in his last nine starts.

"I'll take three hits every night," said Lowrie.

Carlos Lee and Brian Bogusevic had two hits apiece for Houston. David Carpenter and Fernando Abad pitched a scoreless eighth and ninth inning, respectively, to make it a good day for the Astros.

"The home runs help smooth everything," said Astros manager Brad Mills. "It was a complete win. We'll enjoy the day off [on Thursday] and start thinking about the Cardinals."

The Astros open a three-game series at home with St. Louis starting on Friday.

Not known as a long-ball team, the Astros have hit four home runs over the past two games. In Tuesday's 6-3 win over New York, Lowrie and Chris Snyder homered.

The last time an Astro had two homers in a game was Carlos Lee on Sept. 16, 2011, at Wrigley Field. Four times Johnson has had a career-high of four hits in a game, with the previous time coming Aug. 24, 2010, at Philadelphia. It's the second time this season an Astro has had four hits in a game, with Jose Altuve accomplishing the feat on April 25 at Milwaukee.

Richard Dean is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.