Astros fall to White Sox in opener

Astros fall in opener against defending champs

CHICAGO -- Andy Pettitte's frustrations are aimed at no one but himself, and as has been the case too many times this season, he had to again point the finger at himself for another ineffective outing.

Pettitte's seesaw season continued with a low note on Friday night when he allowed six runs over four innings in the Astros' 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox before 37,700 at U.S. Cellular Field.

Pettitte didn't beat around the bush while assessing not only this outing, but also the season as a whole. Seventeen starts into 2006, Pettitte has a losing record -- 6-8 -- and his 5.75 ERA is two runs higher than his career average.

This is not what Pettitte envisioned when he began the season healthier than he had been in two years. Three months in, he's still searching for answers.

"I was trying to figure out how to stay out on the mound and help this team win a ballgame," Pettitte said. "I'm not even giving us a chance to win it when I take the mound. It's just unacceptable.

"We scored plenty of runs. I'm not getting the job done. I don't need to look anywhere else, except right here. Everybody else is doing their job and battling at the plate, and it's just pathetic."

It didn't matter to Pettitte who hit the grand slam that put the Sox ahead 6-0 in the fourth frame. It could have been Jim Thome or Paul Konerko or Jermaine Dye. Pettitte's anger would have been just as intense.

But the fact that it was Scott Podsednik is bothersome, at least for anyone who remembers the White Sox outfielder's heroics during last year's World Series, when he sent a solo shot to the seats in the bottom of the ninth to lift the Sox to a Game 2 victory.

Manager Phil Garner, for one, didn't forget.

"We've got to find a way to get this guy out," Garner said. "He's killed us. He hits a home run either every leap year or every time he faces the Astros, whichever comes first."

That's not such an exaggeration. In his fourth full season in the big leagues, Podsednik has a grand total of 24 home runs. Before Friday, he had hit just one this year. Never in his career had he knocked a grand slam. One swing at a 2-2 fastball in the fourth inning changed all of that.

"I'm tired of telling you that it was right what I wanted to do, and it was right where I wanted to throw it," Pettitte said. "It was just another pitch that it was where I wanted to go with it, and I felt like it was right where I wanted to put it...I don't know what else to say."

Although he lasted only four innings, Pettitte exercised admirable damage control, considering how many baserunners he allowed.

He yielded two runs in the second after allowing an RBI double to Joe Crede followed by a run scoring single by Rob Mackowiak, but coaxed a grounder from Juan Uribe to end the inning.

Pettitte was in trouble in the third when he yielded a leadoff triple to Podsednik, but he recorded three quick outs to strand the White Sox left fielder at third.

The luck ran out in the next frame. Dye led off with a walk, and the bases were soon loaded after a single by A.J. Pierzynski and a walk to Joe Crede.

A Mackowiak grounder to third turned into a 5-2 force play for the first out. Uribe struck out, and Pettitte worked to a 2-2 count on Podsednik, who sent the next offering into the right-field stands to give the White Sox a 6-0 lead.

"I'm upset with the leadoff walk to Dye," Pettitte said. "You're going to give up hits. I didn't care if I walked Crede. I felt like, a lefty [Mackowiak] was coming up, maybe I could get a double play. I did what I had to do to maybe have a chance to get out of it again.

"I turned it up as much as I could and got through it. I'm not getting it done. I had a chance to get out of that inning with no runs, battled my tail off to put myself in that position and didn't get it done."

The Astros offense almost bailed him out. Chris Burke knocked a two-run homer off Jose Contreras in the fifth, and Lance Berkman followed with a solo shot, cutting the Sox lead in half.

Burke's seventh-inning double scored Craig Biggio from first, but that ended the Astros' scoring run. On a different night, scoring four runs off a pitcher who was 7-0 entering this game and on the verge of setting a franchise record with a 16-game winning streak would have been lauded as a tremendous effort.

But a loss is a loss, and the Astros took little comfort in having more success against Contreras than most of his opponents this year.

The Astros are back to .500 for the first time since June 11, when they were 32-32.

"I'm happy with the effort, I'm not happy with the results," Garner said. "We've got to figure out a way to win a ballgame, whether it's outscore somebody or keep them from scoring. We'll have a good game and then have a couple games where we don't do that. When you have a guy that's on a mound like [Contreras], you have to keep them from scoring or put more than seven runs on the board. We didn't do it."

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