Astros unable to figure out Chen, O's

Astros unable to figure out Chen, O's

BALTIMORE -- Bring up the names Andy Pettitte and Bruce Chen, and the left-handers are bound to elicit very different reactions. Pettitte garners plenty of admiration. Chen? Well, quite frankly, the reaction to him is usually one of indifference.

But on Tuesday night at Camden Yards, the Astros made Chen look a lot more dominating than the soft-tossing journeyman actually is, managing just three hits off the southpaw as the Orioles won, 6-1.

Pettitte, who has been nearly unbeatable when facing the Orioles through his career, allowed six runs on 10 hits over 7 2/3 innings to drop to 3-7 on the year. He, typically, took the heat for this loss, but it's hard to believe he truly felt he cost his team the win.

"They've got a good lineup," Pettitte said. "They're tough to go through. I felt good; I just didn't get it done. I had to shut them down."

No, he didn't. He could have won this game having allowed just the three runs he yielded in the sixth inning, when Melvin Mora singled home Larry Bigbie and Miguel Tejada lined a two-run homer into the left-field stands. But the most basic rules of sports preach that you can't win a game when your team doesn't score more than the opponent. And Pettitte's team scored once, which means it loses. This has happened all too much this year with the left-hander on the mound.

So asking Pettitte about how encouraging it was that he was pitching so deep into the game, or that he was still hitting 91 mph in his final inning, and he understandably doesn't have a lot to say about it.

"It's another 'L,'" he said. "I don't feel good about anything, really.

"Anytime you lose, it's frustrating. Bottom line is, you need to win games. I've got figure out a way to win a game. If I have to throw a shutout, I'll throw a shutout until we score, or whatever. I'm not getting it done when I'm out there right now."

Neither are his teammates. The Astros were nearly shut out, if not for a lucky break they caught in the eighth with Chen out of the game. They loaded the bases with no outs, but plated only one run when Adam Everett reached first base safely on Brian Roberts' off-kilter throw after erasing Morgan Ensberg at second.

"It was really frustrating, because I felt that situation was one of our defining moments during the game," said Jason Lane, who struck out to record the first out in that inning. "I fouled off a pitch that I felt I should have hit. And I felt like if I could just put the ball in play and drive at least one run in and get a guy over and get something going ... but I struck out, and it's just really frustrating."

"The story of the game was left on base," said manager Phil Garner, referring to the 11 batters stranded. "We couldn't get the hits when we needed them, and they did."

The Astros had plenty of chances early. They loaded the bases in the fourth, but Eric Bruntlett struck out to end the inning. They had runners on first and second in the second frame, but Everett struck out and Brad Ausmus flew out to left.

Chen allowed a season-low three hits, earning his first win since May 18.

"Anybody that's got a big league uniform on can beat you, whether they're throwing 100 [mph] or whether they're throwing 80," Garner said. "The frustrating thing is, we had opportunities early to get something going and give Andy some cushion, and we couldn't push a run across the plate."

Lance Berkman was part of an odd occurrence in the sixth after Roberts sent a grounder his way. Berkman dove, smothered the ball and tossed to Pettitte just in time to record the out. Then the first baseman, still lying on the ground, slammed his hands down on the dirt, got up and trotted off the field.

   Lance Berkman  /   LF
Born: 02/10/76
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 220 lbs
Bats: S / Throws: L

He was met by Garner and head trainer Dave Labossiere, and the first thought that popped to mind was that Berkman reinjured his surgically repaired right ACL.

Not the case. Sure, the dive he took was awkward enough to feel uncomfortable, but Berkman's beeline to the dugout had nothing to do with needing to go to the hospital.

"That was me thinking there was three outs," Berkman said.

So he had to come up with something to cover his embarrassment for jogging off the field.

"The old trick-knee routine," Berkman said. "Works every time. It definitely wasn't a comfortable play for the knee, but it did not [hurt]. I was like, 'OK, there's three outs.' There were only two -- and I felt like an idiot. At that point, you've just got to go with it."

Berkman stopped by the mound on his way back to first to chat with Pettitte and Ausmus, which prompted Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli to point out to the umpires that that brief meeting counts as an official visit to the mound.

"I had everybody on the field confused as to what was going on," Berkman said. "Brad actually called me over to the mound and was like, 'Are you all right?' And I was like, 'Yeah.' That was our mound visit for the inning."

That's when things went south for Pettitte, who was pitching a shutout until then. It took only two pitches for Mora to start the rally.

Pettitte insisted Berkman's gaff did not break his concentration.

"I felt I threw a good pitch to Mora, down and away," Pettitte said. "[It was] a changeup, and he stayed on it and hit it good. On Tejada, I got the ball down a little more than I wanted to, and [I] was trying to go in on him -- and he hit that one."

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