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Orioles get best of Pettitte

Orioles get best of Pettitte

BALTIMORE -- The visitor's clubhouse at Camden Yards is usually a place for celebration for Houston left-hander Andy Pettitte. The 10-year veteran was 12-2 in Baltimore and 20-4 overall against the Orioles as a member of the Yankees.

But his first trip to Charm City as a member of the Astros was not as pleasant. Pettitte paced quietly through a nearly silent clubhouse on Tuesday night after allowing six runs in 7 2/3 innings in a 6-1 loss to the O's.

While the numbers don't indicate a sterling performance, Pettitte was hardly off his game the night before turning 33 years old. The Orioles, who had lost to the southpaw more times than any other club, simply found a way to get to him.

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"They've got a good lineup," Pettitte said. "They're tough to go through. I felt good, but I couldn't get it done. Obviously, they've got some different players, but they've got a lot of guys that have been here before."

In the sixth inning, the Orioles broke a scoreless tie when Melvin Mora slapped a low changeup to center field to drive in Larry Bigbie. Pettitte said he hit his location, but Mora still was able to find open space in front of Willy Taveras.

Against the next batter, Miguel Tejada, Pettitte missed his spot. He tried to bust the slugger in with a fastball, but the pitch stayed low and over the plate, and Tejada lined the ball into the left-field seats to give the O's a 3-0 advantage.

Despite breaking through in the sixth, Tejada maintained that Pettitte was pitching well.

"He was really tough today," Tejada said. "We just got lucky to finally see one good pitch. We just keep battling. I think that was the key. It was good to get some runs, because we knew it would be tough to score against Pettitte."

Trying to keep his team in the game in the eighth, Pettitte was knocked out by Rafael Palmeiro -- who entered the game hitting .321 (18-for-56) against him.

With the Astros using as shift that positioned four players on the right side of the infield, Palmeiro hit a sharp grounder that found the outfield and drove in two runs for a 6-1 O's lead.

"I wanted him to have a chance to win the ballgame, and it was a good pitch," Astros manager Phil Garner said of Pettitte's 117th and final offering. "We got 30 million guys over there, and [Palmeiro] happened to hit it in the one one-millionth of a spot where the [darn] ball couldn't be caught. So what are you going to do?"

   Rafael Palmeiro  /   1B
Born: 09/24/64
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L

For Palmeiro -- who began the game on the bench, then replaced Chris Gomez in the seventh -- the key was to go right after Pettitte.

"Man, he's a smart pitcher," Palmeiro said. "He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. You have to be aggressive with him."

On a night where the humidity made the 93-degree temperature feel even warmer, Palmeiro suggested that Pettitte may have been tiring in the late innings, because he was missing his spots. But the pitcher and his manager disagreed.

"Actually, the last pitch he threw was 91 [mph]. That's as good as he had been throwing all night long -- so no, I don't think [he ran out of gas]," Garner said.

Fresh or not, Pettitte has not been supported by as potent a lineup as he had in New York, and he said he feels like some days he needs to throw a shutout to give his team a chance to win.

On Tuesday, Pettitte struck out six hitters, and his record (3-7) continues to appear as a contradiction to his ERA (3.76).

"Bottom line is, you need to win games," Pettitte said. "I got to figure out a way to win a game. I'm not getting it done now when I'm out there."

Regardless of how Pettitte viewed his return to Baltimore, the Orioles had nothing but respect for the veteran hurler.

"He was a big-money guy for the Yankees in the playoffs and World Series for many years," said Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, a former Yankees coach.

By defeating one of their biggest nemeses, the first-place Orioles have more reason to believe that some of that luster could rub off on some of their players in the near future.

David Selig is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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