Andy Pettitte of the Houston Astros was the hottest pitcher baseball in July, and was named the NL Pitcher of the Month for going 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA.
In July, the San Francisco Giants had gone 12-15. Starting pitcher Jason Schmidt had gone 1-3 in July with a 4.03 ERA in 6 starts. Plus, the Giants were still stinging from comments made by radio talk show host Larry Krueger, which had been taken as racially offensive by several players.
But this would be the Giants of 2005, a team who find a way to lose when they win, and yet somehow win when they have every reason to lose.
The Giants scored 3 runs early against Pettitte, and Schmidt shut out the Astros through 8 innings, giving up just 3 hits and 3 walks, and the Giants found themselves somehow 4-0 winners on Friday night.
Felipe Alou wasn’t going to take it easy, though. "We have to wake up early tomorrow and show this is for real and make it bigger," San Francisco skipper Felipe Alou said of his team's two-game winning streak. "Everything is crucial, every game. We know the other clubs will start winning, too -- the Dodgers and Padres. We've got to stay within striking distance."
The big blow against Pettitte came off the bat of Lance Niekro, who rocked a 1st inning pitch deep into the left field bleachers to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. Pettitte couldn’t have been more surprised. "It was supposed to be a two-seamer down and away and it came over the plate," Pettitte said. "It was a horrible pitch. It was so bad I didn't think he could hit it out."
That would be enough for Schmidt, although the Giants would get a couple more runs later. After Brad Ausmus hit a single with nobody out in the third, Schmidt wouldn’t allow another hit and retired 18 of the next 20 batters to keep the game from getting interesting.
LaTroy Hawkins had another spotless outing against a team not named the Cubs. He pitched the 9th, with no save opportunity since the Giants picked up an unearned run in the 8th inning.
The game featured a matchup of two leading candidates for rookie of the year. Lance Niekro’s home run was his 11th of the year, which leads NL rookies. Meanwhile, Houston’s Willy Taveras leads NL rookies in batting average.
SFDugout.com Player Of The Game: Jason Schmidt. This start wasn’t just good for a struggling Schmidt this year, but it was outright dominating. And this was one a tough, tough Astros lineup he was facing. If the Giants are going to make that unlikely run for the playoffs, this is the Schmidt the Giants need.
Game Notes: The Giants remain one of only four teams that Andy Pettitte has not been able to defeat. The others are Houston, the New York Yankees, and the Chicago Cubs…Moises Alou missed his third straight game with a tight hamstring. Manager Felipe Alou said he could play as soon as Saturday, but he also might be allowed to rest until Tuesday.
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