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Pettitte (three-hitter) pitches first shutout with Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Call it a throwback or even a renewal of sorts.
Either way, Andy Pettitte's three-hit shutout Sunday is great news
for the Houston Astros.

Pettitte shook off his early season woes and Morgan Ensberg and
Lance Berkman both homered to lead the Astros to a 3-0 win over the
Colorado Rockies.

The shutout is Pettitte's first with Houston and his first since
June 30, 2002, with the New York Yankees against the New York Mets.
It was the left-hander's first complete game since Aug. 9, 2003,
against Seattle.

"I think he's been throwing with better velocity this year, but
his location hasn't always been as good," Astros manager Phil
Garner said. "Today we saw the velocity and the location.

"I think this was the Andy Pettitte of old."

It's the fourth complete game shutout of Pettitte's career and
his 23rd complete game.

Pettitte, who went 17-9 last season with a career-best 2.39 ERA
to help Houston reach its first World Series, lost four of his
first five decisions this year and had said he didn't feel like
himself.

"I don't expect to get shutouts but that was nice to get,"
Pettitte said. "I just think I ought to have been doing better all
this year than I have been."

The victory gives Houston a 2-1 series win over the Rockies
after being swept in Colorado last week.

Pettitte (3-4) struck out seven and walked one. He zipped
through the first two innings, retiring the first six batters he
faced, including striking out the last two. Brad Hawpe got a single
to open the third before Pettitte struck out the next two batters.

He had elbow surgery in 2004 and took a longer break this
offseason to rest his arm.

"This is the best I've seen him with that velocity and that
control," Garner said. "His arm strength is back. I think you're
just going to see him get stronger and stronger."

Pettitte agreed and said past problems with his elbow have been
"frustrating."

"I let it be known I didn't feel great last year," Pettitte
said. "I'm just extremely happy that it feels good this year. No
doubt my arm's stronger and my elbow's stronger, so everything's
sharper."

Berkman helped out in the seventh inning when he turned an
unassisted double play by stepping on first base to get Matt
Holliday out and then running down Todd Helton.

Luis Gonzalez doubled in the fourth inning and Pettitte didn't
allow another hit until a single by Choo Freeman with two outs in
the eighth.

Berkman had a solo homer to left field in his first at-bat after
sitting out a game with tightness in his hamstring. It was his 13th
homer of the season. His 40 RBI this season are second in the
majors to Albert Pujols.

Ensberg hit his 12th home run of the season and his second in
seven at-bats on a shot that landed about three rows into the lower
level of right field in the fourth.

Pettitte said inconsistency has been his biggest problem this
season.

"I haven't been in the counts I've wanted," he said. "But I
felt I got ahead a lot today and I was throwing my curve for
strikes and my fastball to both sides of the plate. I was doing a
lot of things I haven't been doing this year."

Preston Wilson singled and stole second base before scoring on a
single to left field by Brad Ausmus in the fourth that extended
Houston's lead to 3-0.

In his first career appearance against Houston, Jeff Francis
(2-3) allowed six hits and three runs while striking out five in
seven innings.

Even he enjoyed watching Pettitte's performance.

"He was awesome," Francis said. "It was my first time to see
him. We have a pretty good offense and for him to shut us down
today like he did shows a lot."

Sunday marked 40-year-old Craig Biggio's 2,600th career game,
making him the first Astros player to reach the milestone. He is
second behind Barry Bonds in games played by National League
players since 1970. Biggio was 1-for-4.
^Notes:@ Astros shortstop Adam Everett hasn't had an error this
season. He is the only shortstop in the majors who has played more
than 12 games at the position this season without committing an
error. ... Sunday's appearance against Houston leaves Washington as
the only team Francis hasn't faced.