HOUSTON (AP)—Andy Pettitte is beginning to look like his old self again, even if he doesn’t feel that way.
Pettitte (2-2) allowed three runs—two earned—and four hits in 7 2-3 innings. He struck out five, walked two and retired 12 of his first 13 batters in his longest outing since July 21 of last season.
Pettitte, who had surgery on his left elbow in August, lost 2-0 in a chilly game at Pittsburgh last week.
“I felt good tonight,” Pettitte said. “I felt I learned to read Pittsburgh from my last start against them. Obviously, the cold weather affected me at the beginning of that game.
“I still don’t feel 100 percent. But I’m coming along. I’m feeling stronger. My sinker is moving and I’m learning things. In some ways, this might even make me a better pitcher.”
Manager Phil Garner likes the pitcher he has now.
“I’m very pleased with the way he has progressed,” Garner said. “Everything has gone kind of the way we expected. The last start, he got the ball up some. But this time, his velocity and his pitches were good. I think you’ll see him just build on this.”
The Pirates, 2-6 against left-handers this year, were impressed.
“He’s Pettitte,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He’s good. He knows what he’s doing out there. A veteran left-hander with that kind of stuff gives our club fits.”
Jason Bay agreed.
“He’s one of the better pitchers in the league,” Bay said. “He has that cutter and that changeup away. Up until the eighth inning, when he started to get tired he was pretty much perfect.”
Pirates starter Josh Fogg (1-2) lasted just four innings, allowing eight runs, seven hits and two walks. He had no strikeouts and lost to the Astros for the fourth straight time. He’s 3-5 overall against them, but hasn’t won since July 21, 2003.
“I had horrible location and horrible command,” Fogg said. “I couldn’t get ahead of the hitters and I couldn’t throw my fastball for strikes. If I can’t command the ball I cant get outs.
“I put us in a hole 8-0. That’s tough to battle back from. It’s not the starters job to go out and bury his team. You’re supposed to keep it in the game.”
Biggio also got his 400th career stolen base in the first inning and scored three times. He finished with three hits, helping Houston improve to 10-3 at home. The Astros are just 1-10 on the road.
Jason Bay and Tike Redman hit two-run homers in the eighth for the Pirates, who have lost 20 of their last 22 games at Minute Maid Park, where they are 7-35 overall.
Houston took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Mike Lamb’s RBI single and Ensberg’s two-run double.
In the fourth, the Astros loaded the bases with none out, and Ausmus’ two-run single made it 5-0. Two outs later, Biggio hit a three-run shot, his third of the season.
Redman’s two-run homer snapped an 0-for-19 skid and gave the Pirates their first two runs. After Biggio dropped Freddy Sanchez’s popup to second for an error, Pettitte was relieved by Dan Wheeler, who gave up a two-run drive to Bay, making it 8-4.
The Astros optioned OF Luke Scott to Triple A Round Rock and called up RHP Ezequiel Astacio. Astacio will start against Pittsburgh Tuesday. … Biggio is only the second Astros player to reach 400 stolen bases, following Cesar Cedeno (487). Biggio is the fourth player in major league history to have 400 steals, 1,000 RBIs, 225 home runs, 1,500 runs, 1,000 walks, 2,600 hits and 500 doubles. The others are Barry Bonds, Rickey Henderson and Paul Molitor. … In the first inning, Bagwell became the first Astro to reach 1,400 walks. … With Craig Wilson’s fifth-inning double, Pittsburgh has had an extra-base hit in all 24 games this season. Last year, the Pirates had an extra-base hit in a season-high 19 straight games from June 3-23.