No duel: Maddux sketchy, Pettitte hurt

HOUSTON (AP) -- Greg Maddux scrunched up his face in disgust as
he watched yet another of his pitches land in the outfield seats.

Maybe the Houston Astros weren't in a slump after all.

Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent and Lance Berkman each homered off
Maddux, and the Astros overcame the early loss of Andy Pettitte to
complete a two-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a 7-3 victory
Wednesday night.

Chicago was swept for the first time this season, and it was the
first time the Astros did it against their NL Central rivals since
May 2001.

"I think I pitched (terrible)," Maddux said. "I made some
mistakes and they took advantage of it."

Pettitte was pained in a different way, leaving in the fourth
inning with discomfort in his left forearm, and the team said he
was day-to-day.

Pettitte also hurt himself in his debut with the Astros on April
6 and missed the next three weeks with a strained left elbow.

After Wednesday night's game, Pettitte said the pain in his
forearm had subsided but he wasn't sure exactly what was wrong.

"We're just two months into the season and it already seems
like the longest season of my life," Pettitte said. "I'm
frustrated. It's aggravating and disappointing."

Imagine how the Cubs must feel.

They came into Houston facing a team mired in a five-game losing
streak. Now they head back to Chicago with two lopsided losses to a
division rival, dropping them into third place.

"We just have to go back to the drawing board and come up with
something different," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We're
trying to come up with some solutions."

The Astros' offensive onslaught overshadowed a highly touted
pitching duel against Pettitte and Maddux -- a couple of
playoff-tested offseason acquisitions -- that never really

Pettitte was clearly distressed, wincing in pain after Maddux
flied out to end the fourth. Pettitte allowed one run and two hits
with four strikeouts.

Maddux was roughed up throughout his five-inning outing against
the NL's top offense.

Maddux (3-4) failed to last at least six innings for only the
second time this season, giving up five runs on nine hits.

The four-time Cy Young Award winner also gave up his first walk
-- an intentional one to Richard Hidalgo in the third -- in 35

Bagwell got Maddux off to a rough start by singling in Craig
Biggio in the first, then hitting a two-run shot deep into the
left-field seats in the third to give the Astros a 3-0 lead.

Kent followed with a towering homer to nearly the same spot,
sending the sellout crowd of 40,977 into a frenzy.

In the fifth, Berkman sent a fastball from Maddux off the
right-field pole for a 5-0 lead. Maddux got the last out of the
inning and was replaced by Michael Wuertz.

"When you're able to get runs off Maddux early, it's always
nice," said Houston shortstop Adam Everett, who went 2-for-3 and
scored a run. "That was a big lift because he's one of the
toughest pitchers around."

Meanwhile, Pettitte was faring much better until he was forced
to leave.

Pettitte didn't give up a hit until Aramis Ramirez singled in
the fourth, and Michael Barrett had an RBI single.

The injury-depleted Cubs, who learned before the game that
outfielder Tom Goodwin and right-hander Todd Wellemeyer might also
join their expanding disabled list, briefly mounted a comeback in
the sixth.

Todd Hollandsworth's two-run homer off Mike Gallo pulled the
Cubs within 5-3. The Astros thwarted another scoring opportunity
when Hidalgo caught Jason Dubois' fly ball in right field and made
a tremendous throw to catcher Brad Ausmus to nail Barrett at the

"(Hidalgo) threw the ball perfectly and the only thing
(Barrett) could do was try to run into me and knock the ball
loose," Ausmus said.

Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro scored Hidalgo with a suicide
squeeze in the sixth. Pinch-hitter Mike Lamb added an RBI single in
the eighth to put the Astros up 7-3.

Brad Lidge (1-3) struck out all three batters in the eighth. He
was credited with the victory because Pettitte did not last four

Game notes
Bagwell hit his 426th career home run and moved into a tie
for 33rd place with Hall of Famer Billy Williams. They're both one
behind Chicago White Sox slugger Frank Thomas for 32nd. ... Bagwell
and Kent connected for the Astros' first set of consecutive homers
this season. ... Berkman has three homers in as many games. ...
Kent extended his hitting streak to 12 games, one shy of tying a
career record.

MLB News