HOUSTON -- Andy Pettitte feels like nothing has come easy for him this season. Fortunately for him, he faced a team on Tuesday that's struggled even more than he has.
"Well, it was a win," Pettitte said with a relieved smile. "That's always a good thing."
Pettitte (7-9) yielded seven hits, but only one run, and struck out three to earn his first win since he beat the Cubs on June 13. He also walked four.
"It wasn't like I cruised through it," Pettitte said. "It seemed like I had base runners every inning."
Pettitte lost his last two starts and took a no-decision in Houston's 7-4 loss to Kansas City on June 18.
He was in immediate trouble against the Cubs, giving up hard-hit singles to Juan Pierre and Derrek Lee in the first inning and walks to Michael Barrett and Matt Murton in the second.
Manager Phil Garner said plate umpire Jerry Layne wasn't doing Pettitte any favors.
"He had a tight zone early," Garner said, "but he kept battling and grinding and he worked through it."
Pettitte had already thrown 35 pitches when Pierre led off the third with a double, reaching base for the 22nd time in his last 23 games. Pierre trotted to third on Neifi Perez's groundout and scored on Lee's single to right.
"You walk a couple and you feel like you get behind in the count too much, then you start to get too aggressive, then you make mistakes to the middle of the plate," Pettitte said. "There's a fine line there, especially the way my season's going."
But Pettitte never made a mistake as costly as the one Prior made in the sixth inning, with the Astros up 2-1.
With one out, Preston Wilson doubled to right-center and Morgan Ensberg and Adam Everett drew consecutive walks to load the bases.
Brad Ausmus lined out before the lefty-batting Orlando Palmeiro hit for Pettitte.
With a 1-1 count, Prior's 107th pitch skidded into the dirt and under Barrett's right knee guard.
Wilson slid home as Barrett made a bad throw to Prior covering the plate. The ball bounced toward the Cubs' on-deck circle and Ensberg scored as Prior chased it down. Prior was charged with an error for failing to corral Barrett's throw.
Craig Biggio added a bloop single to right with the bases loaded in the eighth off Glendon Rusch, making his first appearance since returning from the 15-day disabled list on Monday.
Lamb followed with a two-run double to the left-field corner, giving the Astros at least seven runs for the fourth game in a row.
Watching from the clubhouse by then, Pettitte received the most run support since a 9-2 win over the Cubs on June 13.
"It was a blowout, huh?" Pettitte said. "You couldn't have convinced me after six innings, I can promise you that. It's nice to break it open late."
The Cubs lost for the 10th time in 12 games.
Prior (0-4) allowed four runs, three earned, and four hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked four in his strongest start since coming off the disabled list on June 18.
He retired 11 of the first 12 Astros he faced, striking out four. But with two outs in the third, he walked Biggio and grazed Willy Taveras with a pitch.
Lamb and Lance Berkman followed with RBI singles to center.
Prior was more upset about that sequence than he was with the wild pitch.
"It's got to be a mental thing," Prior said. "I know I can physically do it, but it happens occasionally and I've got to work my way through it."
The Astros got away with a blown rundown in the fourth.
With two outs, Perez doubled off the left-field wall and Lee walked. As Aramis Ramirez batted, Pettitte threw to Lamb at first, catching Lee leaning toward second. Lamb chased Lee halfway down the baseline, then flipped an errant toss to Biggio, who dropped the ball.
Ramirez lined out to end the threat, then pounded his helmet on the turf as Pettitte walked past him to the dugout.
|Players of the Game|
New Era Houston Astros Hat
$29.95 Shop Now!
|Juan Pierre, CF||5||1||3||0||0||0||0||.270|
|Neifi Perez, 2B||3||0||1||0||0||0||2||.245|
|a- Todd Walker, PH-2B||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.287|
|Derrek Lee, 1B||4||0||3||1||1||1||0||.313|
|Aramis Ramirez, 3B||4||0||0||0||0||0||5||.252|
|Michael Barrett, C||2||0||0||0||2||0||3||.305|
|Bob Howry, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1.000|
|Glendon Rusch, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.200|
|Phil Nevin, RF||3||0||1||0||0||2||2||.226|
|b- Angel Pagan, PH-LF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.310|
|Matt Murton, LF||2||0||1||0||1||0||1||.268|
|c- Jacque Jones, PH-RF||1||0||0||0||0||1||0||.307|
|Ronny Cedeno, SS||4||0||0||0||0||1||3||.265|
|Mark Prior, P||3||0||0||0||0||0||4||.000|
|Roberto Novoa, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Will Ohman, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1.000|
|Henry Blanco, C||1||1||1||1||0||0||0||.240|
|a-fouled out for Perez in the 7th|
|b-struck out for Nevin in the 8th|
|c-struck out for Murton in the 8th|
|2B - Juan Pierre (15, Pettitte), Neifi Perez (9, Pettitte)|
|HR - Henry Blanco (4, Lidge)|
|RBI - Derrek Lee (14), Henry Blanco (17)|
|CS - Juan Pierre (10, 2nd base by Pettitte/Ausmus), Derrek Lee (3, 2nd base by Pettitte/Ausmus)|
|Team LOB - 9|
|E - Mark Prior (2, Missed catch)|
|Mark Prior (L,0-4)||6||4||4||3||4||7||0||7.71|
|HBP - Taveras (by Mark Prior)|
|WP - Mark Prior (1)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Mark Prior 109-59, Roberto Novoa 4-4, Will Ohman 11-5, Bob Howry 4-3, Glendon Rusch 37-21|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mark Prior 5-6, Roberto Novoa 1-0, Glendon Rusch 1-0|
|Batters Faced - Mark Prior 27, Roberto Novoa 2, Will Ohman 2, Bob Howry 1, Glendon Rusch 9|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||1||2||1||1||1||0||.277|
|Jason Lane, RF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.207|
|Willy Taveras, CF||3||1||0||0||0||3||3||.260|
|Mike Lamb, 1B||3||0||2||3||2||0||0||.333|
|Lance Berkman, RF||4||0||1||1||1||2||3||.322|
|Brad Lidge, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Preston Wilson, LF||5||1||1||0||0||2||7||.289|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||2||2||0||0||2||0||0||.238|
|Adam Everett, SS||3||1||2||0||1||0||0||.240|
|Brad Ausmus, C||3||0||0||0||0||1||4||.239|
|Andy Pettitte, P||2||0||0||0||0||1||1||.097|
|a- Orlando Palmeiro, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.226|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|b- Chris Burke, PH-2B||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||.294|
|a-flied out for Pettitte in the 6th|
|b-walked for Wheeler in the 8th|
|2B - Mike Lamb (14, Rusch), Preston Wilson (16, Prior)|
|SH - Willy Taveras (7), Brad Ausmus (3)|
|RBI - Craig Biggio (31), Mike Lamb 3 (26), Lance Berkman (76)|
|2-OUT RBI - Mike Lamb 3 (14), Lance Berkman (26)|
|Team LOB - 10|
|DP - Everett-Biggio-Lamb|
|E - Mike Lamb (3, )|
|Andy Pettitte (W,7-9)||6||7||1||1||4||3||0||5.37|
|Dan Wheeler (H,12)||2||2||0||0||0||2||0||3.72|
|Pitches-Strikes - Andy Pettitte 106-62, Dan Wheeler 29-23, Brad Lidge 15-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Andy Pettitte 7-6, Brad Lidge 1-1|
|Batters Faced - Andy Pettitte 27, Dan Wheeler 8, Brad Lidge 4|
|Attendance - 41502|
|Game Time - 3:11|
|Temperature - 73|
|Umpires - Home - Jerry Layne, First Base - Mark Wegner, Second Base - Marvin Hudson, Third Base - Ed Montague|