ST. LOUIS -- Andy Pettitte didn't want to make excuses. But he would have had a legitimate reason for pitching poorly last night in the Astros' 5-3 loss to the Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
After all, what are the odds of the game's starting pitcher getting hit with a line drive off the inside of the right knee during batting practice by scheduled Game 2 starter Roy Oswalt?
Pettitte needed treatment before he even stepped on to the mound.
''I had swelling. [The trainers] did what they could, but the bottom line is I was terrible," Pettitte said. ''I'm OK. I'm not going to use the knee as an excuse."
Manager Phil Garner said, ''I applaud him for getting through it, but I think it probably had a little effect on him."
It was Pettitte's 32d career postseason start, tying him with Tom Glavine for most starts among active pitchers. The five runs he gave up were the most he has allowed in his postseason career.
Oswalt gets his turnAnywhere else in the baseball universe, superlatives would follow Oswalt day in and day out.
Garner describes Oswalt as a guy who ''doesn't need to be out front. He's not a self-promoter. He's a second-time 20-game winner and you don't hear that much about it. If it happened with someone else, it would be all over the place . . . He is very comfortable being in the back room. He doesn't have to have a lot of spotlights. He just likes to go out and pitch, doing his job and saying thank you very much and going on home."
On a staff that also includes Pettitte and Roger Clemens, you can see where Oswalt could get a little lost. But he's not lost on Garner or anyone in the National League.
''They have a couple of high-profile veterans [Pettitte and Clemens] who have had a ton of success. There's probably enough attention to go around," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. ''If he was the only guy there pitching he would get more attention, but he gets enough. People know how great he is."
Oswalt doesn't sweat the recognition theme. Records of 20-10 with a 3.49 ERA in '04 and 20-12 with a 2.94 ERA this season, speak for themselves. ''That doesn't matter to me," he said. ''The important thing is we prove to everyone what kind of a team we are."