Pettitte 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in last six starts

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Here's proof of how everything went the
Houston Astros' way in Pittsburgh: Even a perceived bad call turned
into something very good.

Andy Pettitte pitched seven sharp innings to extend one of the
best runs of his career, and the Astros beat up on the slumping
Pirates yet again with an 8-0 victory Wednesday.

Lance Berkman gave Pettitte the lead even before the left-hander
took the mound with his second homer in as many games. Mike Lamb
hit a three-run homer in a four-run sixth inning that made it 5-0
against Josh Fogg (4-6), with all the scoring coming that inning
after manager Phil Garner and center fielder Willy Taveras were

Taveras was called out at first by umpire Dan Iassogna on a
grounder to shortstop, causing Taveras to throw his helmet in
anger, and Garner also was tossed for arguing. The ejections were
the Astros' first this season.

"Unbelievable. I can't understand it," said Taveras, who
rarely shows anger on the field. "It should have been a fine for
him, to throw me out of the game. It's 1-0 right there, and I got
real excited. I shouldn't do that but that's emotions and it

Garner was upset that Taveras was ejected, since helmet-tossing
usually results only in a fine if it's not directed toward an

"He was safe, let's face it," Garner said. "He could have
fined him rather than throwing him out of the game but he chose to
do otherwise. But we got through it and made something happen that

The Astros had two outs and nobody on at the time, but Orlando
Palmeiro promptly doubled ahead of Lance Berkman's walk and Morgan
Ensberg's RBI single. Lamb then homered to right field on the first
pitch he saw from Fogg, his third homer of the season.

"You have a great series to this point ... but we needed
something to get over the top today and that big inning gave us
some breathing room," Garner said.

Pettitte (7-7) didn't need much, improving to 4-0 with a 0.90
ERA in his last six starts. He struck out seven and walked one,
allowing only one runner to reach second after striking out Jose
Castillo to leave the bases loaded in the first.

Russ Springer and Chad Harville each pitched an inning to
complete the Astros' seventh shutout and the seventh against

Pettitte improved to 4-1 against the Pirates in his career. He
hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last six starts
and nine of his last 10, despite a record that's misleading due to
a nearly season-long lack of run support.

"It's been tight all year, but we're coming around," Pettitte
said. "The guys are swinging it better and you can tell they're
feeling better about themselves and that's good."

Houston had only five runs and 21 hits while being swept in a
three-game weekend series in St. Louis, then outscored the Pirates
34-8 while getting at least 10 hits in each game -- 13 on Wednesday.

"Every game we seem to be giving up that one big inning,"
Pirates outfielder Chris Duffy said.

And the Astros didn't need staff aces Roger Clemens or Roy
Oswalt during their first four-game sweep in Pittsburgh since the
club began playing in 1962 -- just Pettitte, Brandon Backe and
rookies Ezequiel Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez.

The Pirates dropped to a season's-worst 15 games under .500
after three losses in 22 hours, rapid even by their standards.

"It's not very much fun right now," outfielder Matt Lawton
said. "It's hard to go out play 7-0, 8-0 games every night."

Just ask Fogg. He gave up seven runs and nine hits in 6 2/3
innings to remain winless in nine starts since June 1, going 0-3
with six no-decisions. He has lost his last four decisions to the
Astros, yielding 15 runs and 16 hits in 10 2/3 innings in two
starts this season.

The Pirates, who were at .500 only five weeks ago, are playing
as poorly as Fogg is pitching. They've been outscored 64-16 while
dropping eight of nine, scoring one or fewer in five of the losses,
and are 1-7 since the All-Star break.

Game notes
Lamb is 9-for-22 (.409) against Fogg. ... The only other
team to sweep the Pirates at home this season in a series lasting
more than two games was the Giants, a three-game sweep April 29-May
1. ... Houston (48-46) is two games over .500 for the first time
since being 4-2. ... Despite losing their first three games after
the break, the Astros have won 11 of 15. ... Berkman went 3-for-3
to finish off a 10-for-16 series (.625) with two homers and six
RBI. He is 21-for-47 in his last 13 games. ... Pettitte has
allowed only one homer in his last six starts.