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Emergency Cubs starter O'Malley shuts down Astros

HOUSTON (AP) -- Shortly after his impressive major league debut,
Ryan O'Malley was drenched with beer and splattered with shaving
cream.

Welcome to the show, rookie.

Based on his first start, the 26-year-old left-hander might be
staying for a while.

O'Malley pitched eight effective innings Wednesday to help the
Chicago Cubs complete a three-game sweep of the slumping Houston
Astros with a 1-0 win.

"I cannot describe the feeling last night, this morning and all
day today. Unbelievable," said O'Malley, who got the word he'd
been recalled from Triple-A Iowa about seven hours before the game
started.

The Cubs turned to him after scheduled starter Rich Hill threw
28 pitches at the end of Chicago's 18-inning win over the Astros on
Tuesday night, the longest regular-season game in Minute Maid Park
history.

Iowa was playing in nearby Round Rock on Tuesday, and a team
trainer told O'Malley at 6 a.m. Wednesday that a limousine was
waiting to drive him to Houston.

"I told him to quit kidding with me. This is some kind of a
joke," O'Malley said. "But he's like, 'Get ready.' I've been
smiling since."

Michael Barrett homered in the sixth and Juan Pierre had the
only other three hits the Cubs could muster off Andy Pettitte
(11-13), who struck out seven in eight strong innings.

But the lone run was enough for O'Malley (1-0), who gave up five
hits, walked six and struck out only two, yet flustered the anemic
Astros all day.

"This is an exceedingly tough day because Andy pitched a great
game with great determination," Houston manager Phil Garner said.
"He was just masterful all day and that's a shame."

Houston went the final 21 innings of the series without a run.
Bob Howry pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save.

The Astros were shut out for the second time in three days --
Carlos Zambrano beat them 3-0 Monday -- and they failed to score in
34 of the 36 innings in the three-game series.

Houston also was blanked for the 10th time this season and
dropped its fifth consecutive game, losing precious ground in the
crowded NL wild-card race.

"We better be pressing," Garner said. "The pressure is on.
The time is short."

Pettitte, who won two of his last three starts, did his part.

Pierre, batting .345 in his last 19 road games, was stranded at
third base twice in the first three innings. He led off the game
with a single and, after Ryan Theriot's flyout, Barrett walked and
Aramis Ramirez was hit by a pitch. Pettitte escaped by getting Phil
Nevin and Angel Pagan on swinging strikeouts.

Pierre then doubled into the left-field corner leading off the
third and advanced on Theriot's bunt. But Barrett grounded out and
Pettitte fanned Ramirez to end the threat.

O'Malley was just as stingy from the start, allowing four
harmless walks and two singles by Chris Burke through the first
five innings.

Barrett, the Cubs' catcher, had no idea what to expect from
O'Malley and hastily went over a game plan with him before the
game.

"I was real proud of him," Barrett said. "It's not easy to
get called up and in your first start, deliver the way he did. We
needed that."

Pettitte retired 10 consecutive Cubs between the third and
sixth, and he had Barrett in an 0-2 hole. But Barrett, hitting .357
in his last 30 games, hammered a fastball just over the left-field
wall for his 14th homer. It was the 24th home run allowed by
Pettitte this season, a career high.

"I felt great. I'm extremely disappointed," Pettitte said. "I
got up 0-2 and gave the guy a pitch he could put into play."

The Astros stranded 11 runners -- at least one in every inning
O'Malley pitched.

Zambrano smothered him with shaving cream, and Barrett and
reliever Michael Wuertz dumped two pitchers of beer on O'Malley as
he walked into the clubhouse after a postgame interview.

"King for a day," Pierre said with a smile as reporters
crowded around O'Malley.

Growing up a Cubs fan in Springfield, Ill., O'Malley idolized
Ryne Sandberg. The rookie heard about Tuesday night's 18-inning
game, but had no inkling he would be called up. He was originally
scheduled to start in Round Rock on Wednesday.

"I was just like, I wonder what's going to happen?" he said.
"I didn't really have time to get nervous. It all just happened so
fast."

Game notes
The Cubs homered for the 11th consecutive game, their
longest streak since going deep in 12 straight in September 2005.
... Pierre extended his road hitting streak to 19 games. ... With
Pierre on second in the first inning, Pettitte threw to Burke, the
second baseman, for a pickoff try and the ball skipped into center
field for an error. It was Houston's 56th error of the season, the
fewest in the NL, and only its ninth since the All-Star break, the
lowest total in the majors. ... Astros CF Willy Taveras beat out a
bunt in the seventh inning to extend his hitting streak to 19
games.