<
>

Astros' Pettitte takes two steps back in loss to Rangers

HOUSTON (AP) -- Kevin Millwood hopes his success on the road will
soon spill over to home games.

Millwood pitched seven sharp innings for the Texas Rangers in a
6-0 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night, improving to 4-0
with a 2.31 ERA in road games.

"I really can't explain it," he said. "I don't know, maybe
room service does something for me. Hopefully we can get it turned
around at home a little bit, pitch a little better there, and just
give us a few more chances to win at home."

Michael Young drove in two runs and Gary Matthews Jr. had a pair
of doubles for Texas.

Millwood allowed four hits and struck out six with no walks. He
threw 108 pitches and was replaced by Rick Bauer, who worked a
perfect inning before Francisco Cordero finished the five-hitter,
Texas' third shutout this season.

Houston won Friday's series opener 5-3 but has lost 11 of 15.

"I was just trying to go out and give us a chance," Millwood
said. "Last night was a pretty bad loss for us."

Millwood (5-3) retired 10 straight batters, striking out four,
before Morgan Ensberg's single with one out in the seventh.

"His fastball moves and he mixes in the slider," Astros right
fielder Lance Berkman said. "He kept us off balance."

The Rangers tagged Houston starter Andy Pettitte for four hits,
including two doubles, in the first inning to jump ahead 2-0.
Matthews hit a leadoff double for the second straight game and
Young followed with another one to score Matthews. After a single
by Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock's sacrifice fly scored Young.

"I'm very frustrated," Pettitte said. "The frustrating part
is that we had the big win last night and we come back and right at
the beginning I made a couple of mistakes to the first two batters.
With a win like last night the worst thing a starting pitcher can
do is come back and start like that."

Kevin Mench followed with a single to load the bases, but
Pettitte pitched out of more trouble by retiring the next two
batters to end the inning.

After sailing through the second, Pettitte (3-5) allowed two
singles to start the third before walking Blalock. Mench then hit a
ground-rule RBI double to right. Brad Wilkerson had an RBI single
to put Texas ahead 4-0.

"I think we've done so much better with situational hitting
this year," said Matthews, who is 7-for-10 in the last two games.
"With moving guys over and hitting with men in scoring position."

In his first appearance since pitching a shutout last Sunday,
Pettitte allowed 12 hits in six innings. It was the most hits he'd
allowed since the Marlins got 13 hits and 10 runs against him in
his first start of the season.

"We were fortunate to catch Andy on a down night," Rangers
manager Buck Showalter said. "It doesn't happen too often."

The offensive woes of the Astros, who have scored three runs or
fewer in six of their last seven games, got worse on Saturday as
Houston didn't get a runner past first base until the ninth.

Astros manager Phil Garner isn't sure what to make of his team's
recent slump.

"If we come out of this and play good ball then we'll call it a
phase," he said. "But I'm not sure. We certainly haven't played
sound defense and we haven't pitched well and we haven't hit well.
I just don't think we've played our best ball yet."

It was just the second time Houston had been shut out this
season after losing 5-0 at Colorado on May 6.

Gerald Laird hit a solo homer in the ninth inning off Mike
Gallo.

Game notes
Astros OF Chris Burke went 2-for-5 with a home run in his
first at-bat in his first game on a rehab assignment with Triple-A
Round Rock on Friday. Burke has been on the disabled list with a
left shoulder injury since May 6. ... Astros 2B Craig Biggio's
single in the fourth inning gave him sole possession of 41st place
on the major league career hit list with 2,841. ... Blalock has hit
safely in 33 of 41 games.