Mets defeat Astros 6-4 in split-squad action

KISSIMMEE, FL The 33-year-old right-hander is hoping his strong spring will earn him a job with the New York Mets, possibly as a long reliever and spot starter.

Figueroa, a non-roster invitee, allowed one hit and one run with two strikeouts in four innings, helping a Mets split squad beat the Houston Astros 6-4 on Sunday.

His first three outings this spring were scoreless before he allowed five hits and four runs in his previous game against the Boston Red Sox. He said Sunday's work was a good way to get back on track.

"Against Houston and this lineup that they have, I'm just trying to show every time out there that I belong," he said.

Figueroa appeared in 74 games with four teams from 2000-04 before he was released by Pittsburgh. He had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in 2005 and has spent time in Triple-A and various international leagues since.

"Physically, I'm great," he said. "I'm trying to take every time out to show that I'm back. I'm healthy. I'm stronger than I was before my surgery and that I can help this team in a lot of different ways."

The only hit he gave up Sunday was Lance Berkman's home run in the fourth. All four of Berkman's spring training homers have come this week.

Figueroa said he saw Berkman after he came out of the game and the slugger told him not to worry about the home run because spring training doesn't count.

"I said, 'It still counts for me. I'm trying to make the club,"' Figueroa said.

Jorge Sosa followed with three shutout innings of one-hit ball for New York, striking out four.

Astros starter Chris Sampson pitched four scoreless innings before allowing five runs in the fifth. He was chased with one out in the fifth after the fifth straight hit, a triple by Argenis Reyes.

"I just got to the fifth inning and kind of hit a wall with my arm," said Sampson, who missed his previous start with a sore neck. "My endurance is fine, my legs were OK and strong, but I'm just trying to build up arm strength."

Astros manager Cecil Cooper was happy with Sampson's performance.

"Sampson was good, he just ran out of gas," Cooper said. "He was very effective."

Sampson, who was 7-8 with 4.59 ERA as a rookie last season, is competing to retain his spot in Houston's rotation.

"Everything was working for me," Sampson said. "Mainly I was working early in the game on some offspeeds, some curveballs. I did a pretty good job throwing strikes with them and they were a lot better today than they have been in the past."

Victor Mendez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for New York. Jose Cruz Jr. had a two-run homer to right field in Houston's three-run eighth inning.

Notes: Houston catcher J.R. Towles, who has been out with an injured hamstring, caught in a minor league game. He is feeling better, but still isn't able to run full speed.

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