Paul J. Bereswill, Associated Press
NEW YORK — Just 18 games into the season, Mets fans are sporting paper bags over their heads at Citi Field.
With the team off to its worst start at home in franchise history, it's easy to see why they feel that way.
On Thursday night, the Mets had two runners thrown out on the basepaths in the last two innings and New York lost 4-3 to the Houston Astros.
The Mets fell to 1-8 at Citi Field. They began 1-7 at the Polo Grounds during their 1962 expansion season before winning their next home game. They were 2-7 in 1981, too.
The Mets' seventh straight home loss dropped them to 5-13 overall, their poorest start since going 3-15 in 1964, according to STATS LLC.
"I think we have to find some kind of way to be honest about what kind of team we are," Mets starter R.A. Dickey said. "We can't just keep telling ourselves, 'We're a better team than this.' We may not be. We got to be honest about that and identify what we're doing wrong and do it better."
The Mets should get some help for an offense that is batting just .238. Jason Bay is set to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Thursday.
Hunter Pence hit a blistering go-ahead home run in the eighth inning. Then Astros reliever Jose Valdez made a sweeping tag at home to end the Mets' eighth-inning comeback.
In the ninth, after Jose Reyes got his fourth hit, Josh Thole popped up a bunt and closer Brandon Lyon threw to first for the double play.
"When you play as poorly as we've played, those big plays are going to go against you," said Mets star David Wright, who went 0 for 3 and is in a 0-for-19 slump.
Daniel Murphy hit a tying, two-run homer in the sixth to spoil a fine outing by Houston starter Bud Norris.
Dickey flustered the Astros after a three-run second inning. But Pence lined a tiebreaking shot deep into the first section beyond the left-field wall.
"It's hard to fight the mentality — 'What's next mentality. How many ways can we lose a ballgame?'" Dickey said.
Norris was pitching with a 3-1 lead in the sixth. He gave up a one-out double to Willie Harris before Murphy hit a fly just inside the right-field pole for his first homer of the season and second of three hits on the night.
Murphy should see significantly more playing time at second base because the Mets cut December draft pick Brad Emaus on Monday. Learning a new position this season, Murphy turned two double plays to back Dickey (1-3).
Mark Melancon (2-1) walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh and Fernando Abad did the same in the eighth, walking Angel Pagan on a 10-pitch at-bat. Then after a strikeout, Murphy had a perfect hit-and-run single that sent Pagan to third.
Valdez relieved and struck out pinch-hitter Justin Turner with a pitch in the dirt. The ball got away from J.R. Towles and Pagan broke for home. Towles chased the ball up the first base line and tossed it to Valdez, who swept around to tag Pagan.
"I thought I had a fair chance to make it," Pagan said, "thought it was far enough to make something happen for our team."
Lyon pitched the ninth for his fourth save.
Norris worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the first — the Mets were 4 for 17 with the bases loaded coming in. And to form, Ike Davis struck out and Pagan hit a long fly to right to end the threat.
"R.A. pitched very good," manager Terry Collins said. "I think if we would have gotten something in the first that would've helped."
Norris then drove in a run in the second with a single. A run had already scored on Dickey's wild pitch and Michael Bourn followed Norris with an RBI single to put Houston up 3-0.
But Dickey figured out how his knuckleball was reacting to Wednesday's light breeze and shut down the Astros, allowing only three hits from the third inning through the seventh. He was aided by three double plays.
Astros second baseman Bill Hall left in the fourth because of a sprained right ankle. He was injured when he slammed into the wall behind first base making a running catch of Harris' foul pop in the second inning. Matt Downs took over at second in the fourth.
NOTES: Mets reliever Bobby Parnell has a circulatory problem in the middle finger of his pitching hand and will have further tests to determine if a blood clot is causing the numbness. He will likely go on the 15-day DL. ... The Mets have lost their last five series.
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