Yankees-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

Throughout his 18-year career, Andy Pettitte has been a consummate winner.

It's only fitting that the left-hander's final start will come Saturday night when the New York Yankees visit the Houston Astros, representing the only two major league teams Pettitte has ever pitched for.

Pettitte, who went 37-26 from 2004-2006 with the Astros, has more wins in Houston than any city outside of New York.

Pettitte hasn't pitched at Minute Maid Park since he rejoined the Yankees in 2007.

He grew up in Deer Park, less than a half-hour drive from Houston's home ballpark.

"To be able to make my last start here in my hometown is going to be extremely special," Pettitte said. "Everybody that I've grown up with ... and that instilled things in me is going to be here. So it's going to be a really exciting day for me. And it's fitting, I believe."

It's even more fitting that with a win Saturday, Pettitte (10-11, 3.88 ERA) would become the first pitcher in history with 18 or more seasons without ever posting a losing record.

Pettitte will need some support, however, as he's winless in five September starts despite a 3.09 ERA.

On Sunday, he allowed two runs and two hits over seven-plus innings against San Francisco, but was a tough-luck 2-1 loser.

Still, Pettitte drew plenty of satisfaction from the ovation he received as he stepped off the Yankee Stadium mound for the final time.

What satisfaction he'll derive from ending his career in his hometown remains to be seen.

"For me, (Sunday) was incredible and great closure for me," Pettitte said. "This is kind of a bonus."

Pettitte has allowed three runs in his last 16 innings - two of which came on solo homers.

Perhaps the oddest element of Pettitte's last start is that it will come against a "Clemens," though not the one who joined the left-hander at the head of the Astros' and Yankees' rotations for so many years.

Paul Clemens (4-6, 5.69) is winless since making his first major league start for Houston on Aug. 27.

After allowing two runs in seven innings to the Los Angeles Angels on Sept. 15, the right-hander struggled against Cleveland on Saturday, allowing four runs, eight hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings of a 4-1 loss.

Houston seeks to avoid becoming the third team since 1970 to record 110 losses in a season. The last was the 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks with 111.

The Astros (51-109) have averaged 1.6 runs per game while losing 13 straight.

"It's been real tough losing 13 straight," third baseman Matt Dominguez said. "Hopefully we can come out tomorrow and Sunday and get wins and end the year on a good note, build a bit more confidence heading into spring training."

The Yankees (83-77), currently tied with Baltimore for third in the AL East, ended a four-game losing streak Friday. They are trying to avoid their first finish of fourth place or below since 1992.

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