Pettitte bears down to beat Brewers

Pettitte bears down to beat Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- When a team is struggling like the Houston Astros have on the road this year, it seems as if even the best of wins don't come easy. That was the case on Sunday, when things got a little dicey in the final stages of Houston's 2-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

Brad Lidge, looking for his second save of the series, yielded leadoff hits to Junior Spivey and Geoff Jenkins, bringing a previously restless crowd of 34,402 to its feet for the first time all day. Lidge threw a fastball to Carlos Lee, who popped out to catcher Brad Ausmus inches in front of the net behind the plate.

No one could have anticipated this game would end on an unconventional 2-5-3 double play, but Damian Miller's effort to connect with Lidge's offering on a 1-2 pitch traveled about two inches in front of the plate. That gave Ausmus plenty of time to throw to Ensberg to begin the game-ending play.

"That was the way we planned it, a 2-5-3 double play," manager Phil Garner joked. "We'll take it. Obviously, we'll take it."

The save, Lidge's 10th of the year, was somewhat atypical, considering he did not record a strikeout.

"When you come out in a situation like that, I want to get out No. 1, and as soon as that happens, hopefully you can get the next two quick," Lidge said. "They did a good job. The first two guys put the ball in play and got some hits on some sliders. After that, we needed to mix it up a little more. Fortunately, Brad had the smarts to go to (third base) on that one, we turned it and we get out of Milwaukee with two wins."

And that means the Astros have finally won a road series, for the first time this year. They were 0-8 in road series leading up to the set in Milwaukee.

"It's big," Lidge said. "We had to do it. Before we came on this trip we knew we had to do it. It didn't work in Texas and Chicago, but we got one and we've got a little bit of momentum coming home. I think our team's playing a lot better as a whole now."

Andy Pettitte erased any questions about the status of his left arm when he shut out the Brewers over six innings.

Pettitte, who skipped his last turn through the rotation because of stiffness in his left forearm, allowed three hits, walked one and struck out eight, improving to 3-5 on the year.

The left-hander worked out of his only jam within the first 17 pitches of his 78-pitch outing. He yielded a leadoff hit to Brady Clark, who advanced to third on Spivey's double to left. Pettitte then struck out Jenkins, caught Lee's popup and struck out Miller.

Pettitte admitted he was feeling tentative when he began this outing.

"If this (forearm) tightens up, I'm going on the DL, basically," he said. "I was just a little tentative. I didn't know where it was going to be. All I had really done was test it in the bullpen.

"You can't do the same things in the bullpen as you can facing big league hitters. I was a little concerned with where it was going to be. It held up for me and hopefully I'm over that now and we can go forward."

After he escaped the first, Pettitte allowed two baserunners over the next five frames. He struck out the side in the second and started a 1-3-6 rundown after yielding a walk to Spivey in the third. Pettitte retired seven straight before allowing a base hit to Clark in the sixth.

"He came out today just hitting spots like he always does," Lidge said. "It was just very impressive that he was able to go late into the game coming off a missed start. He looked like he could have gone even further. It was a relief to see Andy Pettitte pitching well and lookng so healthy."

The Astros didn't take advantage of every scoring opportunity, but two runs were enough this time. Mike Lamb knocked a solo homer off Chris Capuano in the first, and Eric Bruntlett knocked a two-out triple in the fifth to score Ausmus, who led off with a walk and advanced to second on Pettitte's bunt.

Dan Wheeler entered the game in the seventh hoping to preserve the Astros' 2-0 lead. He sailed through a 1-2-3 inning and looked to be on his way to doing the same in the eighth, but Chris Macgruder connected with a pinch-hit solo homer, ending the Astros' bid for a shutout.

Wheeler struck out Clark to end the inning, which gave Lidge the narrowest lead to work with going into the ninth.

"Wheeler gives us great innings and has been doing a fantastic job," Garner said. "I'd just as soon him not give up the home run but he didn't let them tie us up. That was good."

Asked if finally winning a road series takes some of the pressure of the 18-31 Astros, Garner gave an emphatic, "No."

"We have to keep the pressure on," he said. "We have to keep winning. It makes you feel better, obviously, on that plane ride home, knowing we won a series. We've got a lot of baseball to play and we've got to get serious about it."

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