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Friday, May 05, 2006

Houston Off to 19-9 Start - Sweep St. Louis Cardinals

From MLB.com

Astros sweep away Cardinals
Pettitte outpitches Cy Young winner Carpenter
By Alyson Footer / MLB.com

HOUSTON -- Not that Andy Pettitte feels inferior to any of his teammates, but now that the Houston Astros are in their second month of the season, the left-hander was starting to wonder when it was going to be his turn to win a game.
The Astros, 19-9 after beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-3, on Thursday night, have had few difficulties in what is now their best start after 28 games. Pettitte, keenly aware he hadn't won since April 9, thought he might be headed down the same path this time, after laboring through two innings that forced him to throw 48 pitches.

He yielded a bases-loaded double to So Taguchi that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the second, and as Brad Ausmus made his way to the mound, Pettitte was already scolding himself for a bad beginning to this start.

"Here we go," Pettitte chuckled. "We'll lose another one -- the team's got 10 losses, and I've got five of them."

That's not what Ausmus relayed to him. Pettitte said Ausmus "chewed me out a little bit," and although he didn't recall the exact dialogue, Ausmus' point was well-taken.

"I don't remember exactly what he said, but he usually doesn't come out there and gripe too much," Pettitte said. "He was griping at me a little bit tonight. It was good, it gave me a little kick in the rear end to get me going."

Ausmus was diplomatic as well.

"I wasn't happy when Taguchi got the hit," Ausmus said. "We were trying to bury that pitch in the dirt. We missed a couple spots early, so I wasn't happy about it. He did a nice job making an adjustment."

By the end of the third, Pettitte had thrown 66 pitches, and it looked like his night may be cut short. But he got through the next three frames on 37 pitches, and although he walked Scott Rolen in the sixth, the inning was soon over when Jim Edmonds grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

"I thought he got better when he got a little fatigued," manager Phil Garner said. "He was a little more efficient. He'd get a strike, maybe a ball and get an out, instead of going five or six pitches deep into the [count]. He looked like his control was just a little bit better."

Pettitte agreed.

"I felt like I might have settled in a little bit," he said. "Sometimes, when i am a little strong, I overthrow. That's probably what was happening early, and it got me out of sync."

Once Pettitte got into a rhythm, the Astros bats perked up. Lance Berkman tied the game in the fourth with a two-run shot off reigning Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter, his 11th of the season.

Pettitte said Berkman is "swinging the bat as good as I've seen anybody swing the bat that I've played with." That's a high compliment, seeing he won four World Series championship rings and played with some of the most celebrated players of the dominating Yankees era of the late 1990s.

"I'm seeing the ball good right now," a modest Berkman said. "It's just a hot spell for me. You try to keep it going as long as you can. It's about consistency. Anybody can be a great player for a month or a week, but you've got to do it over the long haul. That's what separates guys that are considered great players."

Carpenter had never lost at Minute Maid Park until this start. His ERA was a miniscule 0.84 over four games in Houston.


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