07/29/06 2:09 AM ET
Scott's cycle not enough in tough loss
Rookie outfielder drives in five; Pettitte loses in relief
By Kevin Yanik / MLB.com
"It's been terrible."
Those were jabs Pettitte took at his performance just a couple of nights ago -- in a winning cause. He took shots at himself again late Friday night, but only after he allowed the game-winning run in an 8-7 loss to the Diamondbacks in the 11th inning at Minute Maid Park.
"It shouldn't be that difficult to only get three outs without giving up a run," Pettitte said. Pettitte allowed this game-winner in relief, his first such appearance in nearly a decade, and it definitely didn't go as planned.
He entered in the 11th with the game tied at 7. Manager Phil Garner had already worked through most of his bullpen, and he was left with just a few options against a left-handed portion of the Diamondbacks' lineup. Closer Brad Lidge was available. So was reliever Dave Borkowski.
And then there was Pettitte, who started on Wednesday night.
"It's a situation where the bullpen's been used a lot," he said. "It's an ideal situation for me to get in there with those lefties, because you know they're not going to pinch-hit for them."
"I planned to use Pettitte [on Friday] anyway," he said. "Use Pettitte in that situation, use Lidge for the bottom part of the inning and make Borkowski go the rest of the ballgame."
Well, the game was over at Pettitte (9-11, 5.18). The first batter he faced was Luis Gonzalez, who lined a double high off the left-center-field wall. Pettitte then induced a groundout from Chad Tracy, who moved Gonzalez over to third.
The final blow was Johnny Estrada's sacrifice fly to deep left, which put the Astros behind for the fourth different time and sent them to their 12th loss in their last 17 games.
"Unfortunately, I made a mistake to Gonzalez right there and just left it up a little bit," Pettitte said. "I did what you couldn't do."
Right-hander Brandon Backe did some of that, as well. In five innings, he allowed a season-high five runs on 12 hits and two walks. His elbow wasn't the cause of those numbers, though. Backe insists it's fine and that he's continuing to make progress with each successive outing.
"I felt like [Friday's outing] was one of my best starts," Backe said. "Obviously, not numbers-wise. What's frustrating is that I thought I had the stuff, but it definitely didn't show as far as what I gave up."
Despite a couple of early deficits, the Astros fought back against Diamondbacks right-hander Enrique Gonzalez. Trailing, 3-0, in the fourth, they rallied to tie the game on Luke Scott's three-run homer.
In the fifth and sixth, respectively, the Astros fell down again yet pulled themselves back, partly because of Scott. He tripled home Aubrey Huff in the fifth and plated him again in the seventh on an RBI double.
Preston Wilson added a run in that seventh on Brad Ausmus' groundout, and Mike Lamb tied the game at 7 in the eighth with a sacrifice fly to score Willy Taveras.
"We stayed in the ballgame, we had some great at-bats," Garner said. "We hit the ball good when we had men in scoring position. That's a much better sign."
But the scoring stopped completely until Pettitte allowed that game-winning run. In his club's half of the inning, Scott lined a two-out single to cinch the cycle, but pinch-hitter Lance Berkman, who's battling a strained left groin, grounded to second to end the game.
"That was all he could do was stand and swing," Garner said of Berkman. "He wasn't going to run."
The Astros are making a run at the Wild Card extremely difficult. With the loss, they now sit seven games behind the Wild Card-leading Reds.
"The guys battled hard," Pettitte said. "I had a chance to come in and get three outs, and I couldn't do it."
Kevin Yanik is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.