Astros 3, Rangers 2, 10 innings

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HOUSTON (AP)—The Houston Astros believe Andy Pettitte has regained his form, and the Texas Rangers won’t argue.

Pettitte pitched nine strong innings and Morgan Ensberg drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 10th to lead Houston over Texas 3-2 Sunday.

Pettitte had left elbow surgery last August and has come along slowly this season. He missed a start with tightness in his left forearm last month against the Cubs, but is 2-2 with two no-decisions and a 2.45 ERA since then.

Against the Rangers, he allowed two runs—one earned—and seven hits with no walks. He struck out six in his longest outing since a complete game against Seattle on Aug. 9, 2003, when he was with the New York Yankees. Pettitte couldn’t remember how long it had been since he had gone nine innings.

“I think that was the longest I’ve gone since the World Series (2003 with the Yankees),” Pettitte said. “My arm feels good. It’s getting stronger and stronger.

“They told me after the surgery not to expect to be able to feel good until July. So I’m about right on schedule. I’m feeling strong now. You forget what it’s like to feel good.”

Catcher Brad Ausmus has noticed the difference in Pettitte recently.

“He has really started to turn the corner the last two starts,” Ausmus said. “Since he skipped that start a month ago, he has turned into the Andy Pettitte everyone has watched do so well in the past.”

Manager Phil Garner agreed.

“I think he was on cruise control today,” Garner said. “It was a great job by him. Typically after surgery pitchers have trouble locating pitches. But his location has been much better than I anticipated it would be.”

The Rangers were certainly impressed.

“It was the same old thing, fastball away and then he would come inside,” Mark Teixeira said. “He’s a good pitcher. He’s done it for a long time. He didn’t give us too many oppurtunities. He pretty much shut us down.”

The Rangers also got a strong outing from Chan Ho Park, who was bouncing back from his worst outing of the year in Los Angeles last Tuesday. He tied his season-high for inninngs when he went seven and allowed just four hits and two runs, one earned.

Park was coming off a disastrous performance Tuesday at Los Angeles when he allowed season highs of 10 hits and eight runs in just one inning against the Angels.

“They had a lot of swinging bunts against Chan Ho and runs were at a premium for us,” Rangers manager Buck Showalter said. “I was really pleased with the way he pitched. Hopefully he can learn from this.

“He got a pitch up to (Lance) Berkman and one up to Orlando) Palmeiro. Other than that he was down and aggressive. He deserved the win just like Pettitte did.”

Reliever Juan Dominguez (0-2) walked Craig Biggio and Lance Berkman to lead off the 10th before Ensberg slapped his game-ending single between third and shortstop.

Ensberg and Palmeiro had two hits apiece, and Houston won for the second time in the six-game Lone Star series.

Chad Qualls (3-3) pitched a hitless 10th inning to pick up the win.

Texas has lost 10 of its last 12 road games and 13 of 17.

Texas took a 1-0 lead in the first. After Michael Young and Teixeira singled with one out, Hank Blalock hit a grounder to first baseman Mike Lamb who threw to second for the force out. Shortstop Adam Everett, attempting the double play, threw wildly to Pettitte covering first, allowing Young to score.

The Rangers made it 2-0 in the fourth inning, Alfonso Soriano doubled with one out and went to third on a wild pitch. One out later, Rod Barajas hit a looper to left field. Berkman dove for it and momentarily had it in his glove, but it popped out and allowed Soriano to score.

Park dominated the Astros in the first five innings, holding them to a pair of infield singles by Everett and Ausmus in the second. It extended Park’s scoreless innings streak against Houston to 12, including seven at home on May 22.

Houston finally got to him in the sixth inning when Craig Biggio singled and Berkman hit a run-scoring double.

The Astros tied it in the seventh when Palmeiro doubled, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Ausmus’ bunt down the first-base line. Ausmus reached safely when Teixeira failed to catch Park’s soft throw.

Pettitte then followed with another sacrifice, giving the Astros a major league record-tying three in an inning.

Notes

The Astros’ three sacrifices was the 14th time a team did it in an inning, and the first time since the Minnesota Twins on July 21, 1991, in the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers. Houston has done it three times, twice in the 1975 season. … Astros improved their all-time record to 16-14 against the Rangers. … Lance Berkman is the only Astros player to have appeared in all 30 Lone Star series games. … Texas is 22-13 in weekend games this season. … Richard Hidalgo finished 1-for-21 on the road trip, including 0-for-9 in his first trip back to face his former team at Minute Maid Park.

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