Altuve sparks win with 223rd hit of the season

Astros reach 70-win milestone for first time since 2010

Altuve sparks win with 223rd hit of the season

NEW YORK -- The Astros reached a couple of modest milestones Friday night that still signified they're headed in the right direction. And second baseman Jose Altuve moved closer to reaching a major milestone in his pursuit of a batting crown.

Altuve went 1-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI, and the Astros bullpen held the Mets to one hit in 4 1/3 scoreless innings in a 3-1 win at Citi Field that guaranteed Houston wouldn't finish in last place for the first time since 2010 by winning its 70th game.

Altuve is hitting an American League-best .342 with two games remaining as he inches closer to becoming the first Astros player to win a batting title. Detroit's Victor Martinez also went 1-for-4 and is hitting .336.

"Every single guy around me is telling, 'Oh man, you've got to get the hits, you've got to get the batting title,'" Altuve said. "It would mean a lot to be to win a batting title for the first time in the franchise. Five, six points, that's nothing for Victor in two days."

The 70 wins are the most by the Astros since they won 76 games in 2010, and a 19-game improvement over last year's 51-win club. They won 56 in 2011 and 55 in 2012.

"Take a breath and go, 'Ah, we got 70,'" interim manager Tom Lawless said. "Now we'll try to get 71, 72. That's the whole idea. That's our mindset, to go out and compete and win games. We did a nice job. We put up three in one inning and we held on from there."

After Astros starter Brad Peacock was pulled after throwing 96 pitches in 4 2/3 innings, Kevin Chapman, Jorge De Leon, Tony Sipp and Chad Qualls combined to retire 13 of the final 15 Mets hitters, including the last 11 batters.

Chapman (2-0) pitched two-thirds of an inning to get the win, allowing a walk and a hit. He walked the last batter he faced in the sixth -- Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker, who is his cousin and best friend.

Sipp retired all six batters he faced to lower his season ERA to 3.06, and Qualls needed only nine pitches to work a 1-2-3 ninth inning for his 19th save.

"It was a close ballgame and I tried to do my part and keep as much room as we had," Sipp said. "We had a two-run cushion and I was trying to make it an easier job for him, coming in there and trying to attack hitters early. I made some good pitches early and never trailed behind in the count and made it easy for the closer, which hopefully is what I do every time."

Peacock pitched well, but again couldn't get deep into the game because of the pitch count, allowing just one run and four hits while striking out seven batters. The run he allowed came on a long homer by Curtis Granderson in the fourth.

Jon Niese was working on a two-hit shutout in the sixth when he had to be pulled from the game because of an elevated heart rate, after giving up a leadoff single to Gregorio Petit. Reliever Carlos Torres came in was rocked for three consecutive hits.

"We haven't had many innings where we got two or three hits in an inning, so it was nice to see us put it together in one inning and get some hits," Lawless said.

Robbie Grossman doubled -- after Petit was caught stealing -- and he scored on a hit by Altuve, which was his 223rd of the season. Chris Carter hit a double to left field, and Altuve would have been out at the plate had the catcher not dropped the relay throw. The Astros took a 3-1 lead on an RBI single by Matt Dominguez.

"I caught it, I went to tag him, I mean, the ball came out somehow," said Mets catcher Anthony Recker, who was charged with an error. "I really don't know how. I'm a little perturbed about that."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.