Astros' comeback attempt falls short

Astros' comeback attempt falls short

HOUSTON -- If there is a bright side to the Houston Astros' 7-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, it's that a their six-run deficit after five innings would have seemed like a 17-0 deficit a couple of weeks ago. With runs crossing the plate at a snail's pace, the Astros we've been watching for much of this season would have no chance to overcome a 7-1 hole.

But on this night, the Astros didn't go away quietly. That's why what was left of a Minute Maid Park crowd of 27,790 in the ninth inning were given reason to believe the Astros were about to overcome a two-run deficit and record their first last at-bat win since the first week of the season.

With two outs and no one on, Craig Biggio launched a 379-foot homer off Brian Bruney to bring the Astros to within a run of tying the game. Lance Berkman walked, bringing to the plate Morgan Ensberg, who grounded to third but slid into first, making it impossible for Chad Tracy to tag him after receiving a high throw from Troy Glaus.

Mike Lamb walked to load the bases, but Adam Everett sent a rocket toward third that just happened to land right in Glaus' glove.

"Adam had a great at-bat," Biggio said. "I thought the game was over right there. Unfortunately, it turned against us."

"You can't hit the ball any better than Adam did," manager Phil Garner said.

The Astros, able to do very little in the first five frames, started chipping away in the sixth. A lot of the credit goes to Todd Self, who recorded his first big league hit with a two-run homer to right field off Russ Ortiz that capped a three-run frame.

They added another in the seventh when Biggio doubled to left-center and scored on Berkman's infield hit toward first, and when the bullpen combined for four scoreless frames after Andy Pettitte's departure, the Astros looked poised to extend their winning streak to four games.

"Morale-wise, it would have been huge right there," Biggio said. "I think everybody had some contributions over the course of a day and that's a good thing. For an offense that's been having a hard time scoring runs, we battled back. We never gave up. We just couldn't get a break tonight."

Garner felt like something spectacular was going to happen this time, unlike their previous one-run decisions that resulted in nine wins in 13 games.

"It was a hard-fought game," Garner said. "You just had a feeling we were going to win that ballgame. I thought back in the sixth inning when they didn't shut us down we were going to come back and win it. We kept inching back and we just came up a little short."

Pettitte pointed the finger squarely at himself, taking the blame for putting his team in the position to have to overcome a six-run deficit. Pettitte allowed seven runs on 11 hits over five innings, with most of the damage arriving in his final two.

The D-Backs batted around and scored four runs in the fourth, an inning highlighted by Troy Glaus' two-run homer. Alex Cintron's flare to right, however, gave Pettitte more fits, considering the left-hander was ahead, 1-2, and Cintron didn't make particularly good contact with the ball. The hit scored two runs and put the Astros behind, 5-1.

"That was a back-breaker," Pettitte said. "I get two strikes on him and make the pitch I want to make and he flares it over to right field. It was a back door cutter ... it was just extremely frustrating."

Pettitte said he didn't feel great going into this start, and soon after he took the mound, it was obvious his velocity wasn't what it was earlier this month. The left-hander acknowledged his rough outing may have been a result of some leftover effects from the elbow stiffness that plagued him in his previous start.

"Same old story," he said. "I didn't feel real good tonight at all. The cutter was way down to 79 [mph], and it's been 85, 86. I guess this is what you deal with when you have surgery.

"I've been feeling great. I've been coming along nicely. It's just another hurdle I have to go through. I thought I was over that pretty much, but apparently, not quite yet."

Pettitte's start Wednesday marked the first time this season that he allowed more than three earned runs. On a rare night that he was given run support, for the first time, six runs wasn't enough.

"I dug way too deep of a hole for us to get out of," he said. "We had a great chance to win that game at the end and I really commend the guys for fighting back. I couldn't stop the bleeding in those innings, whether it was infield hits or seeing eyes, a double here and there. I just couldn't get out of the innings when I needed to."

The pitching staff's scoreless streak was halted at 26 innings, the longest streak in the Majors this year.

"The starting pitching's been great and I did a terrible job tonight," Pettitte said. "It's extremely disappointing to give up seven runs and lose a game. We'd won three in a row and man, I wanted to keep it going."

Alyson Footer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.