PITTSBURGH -- Here's proof of how everything went the Houston Astros' way in Pittsburgh: Even a perceived bad call turned into something very good.
Lance Berkman gave Pettitte the lead even before the left-hander took the mound with his second homer in as many games. Mike Lamb hit a three-run homer in a four-run sixth inning that made it 5-0 against Josh Fogg (4-6), with all the scoring coming that inning after manager Phil Garner and center fielder Willy Taveras were ejected.
Taveras was called out at first by umpire Dan Iassogna on a grounder to shortstop, causing Taveras to throw his helmet in anger, and Garner also was tossed for arguing. The ejections were the Astros' first this season.
"Unbelievable. I can't understand it," said Taveras, who rarely shows anger on the field. "It should have been a fine for him, to throw me out of the game. It's 1-0 right there, and I got real excited. I shouldn't do that but that's emotions and it happens."
Garner was upset that Taveras was ejected, since helmet-tossing usually results only in a fine if it's not directed toward an umpire.
"He was safe, let's face it," Garner said. "He could have fined him rather than throwing him out of the game but he chose to do otherwise. But we got through it and made something happen that inning."
The Astros had two outs and nobody on at the time, but Orlando Palmeiro promptly doubled ahead of Lance Berkman's walk and Morgan Ensberg's RBI single. Lamb then homered to right field on the first pitch he saw from Fogg, his third homer of the season.
"You have a great series to this point ... but we needed something to get over the top today and that big inning gave us some breathing room," Garner said.
Pettitte (7-7) didn't need much, improving to 4-0 with a 0.90 ERA in his last six starts. He struck out seven and walked one, allowing only one runner to reach second after striking out Jose Castillo to leave the bases loaded in the first.
Russ Springer and Chad Harville each pitched an inning to complete the Astros' seventh shutout and the seventh against Pittsburgh.
Pettitte improved to 4-1 against the Pirates in his career. He hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his last six starts and nine of his last 10, despite a record that's misleading due to a nearly season-long lack of run support.
"It's been tight all year, but we're coming around," Pettitte said. "The guys are swinging it better and you can tell they're feeling better about themselves and that's good."
Houston had only five runs and 21 hits while being swept in a three-game weekend series in St. Louis, then outscored the Pirates 34-8 while getting at least 10 hits in each game -- 13 on Wednesday.
"Every game we seem to be giving up that one big inning," Pirates outfielder Chris Duffy said.
And the Astros didn't need staff aces Roger Clemens or Roy Oswalt during their first four-game sweep in Pittsburgh since the club began playing in 1962 -- just Pettitte, Brandon Backe and rookies Ezequiel Astacio and Wandy Rodriguez.
The Pirates dropped to a season's-worst 15 games under .500 after three losses in 22 hours, rapid even by their standards.
"It's not very much fun right now," outfielder Matt Lawton said. "It's hard to go out play 7-0, 8-0 games every night."
Just ask Fogg. He gave up seven runs and nine hits in 6 2/3 innings to remain winless in nine starts since June 1, going 0-3 with six no-decisions. He has lost his last four decisions to the Astros, yielding 15 runs and 16 hits in 10 2/3 innings in two starts this season.
The Pirates, who were at .500 only five weeks ago, are playing as poorly as Fogg is pitching. They've been outscored 64-16 while dropping eight of nine, scoring one or fewer in five of the losses, and are 1-7 since the All-Star break.
Lamb is 9-for-22 (.409) against Fogg. ... The only other team to sweep the Pirates at home this season in a series lasting more than two games was the Giants, a three-game sweep April 29-May 1. ... Houston (48-46) is two games over .500 for the first time since being 4-2. ... Despite losing their first three games after the break, the Astros have won 11 of 15. ... Berkman went 3-for-3 to finish off a 10-for-16 series (.625) with two homers and six RBIs. He is 21-for-47 in his last 13 games. ... Pettitte has allowed only one homer in his last six starts.