Bud Norris silenced the Angels bats for seven innings last night and a trio of relievers helped complete the shutout. Norris coasted through seven innings, allowing only three hits and two walks while striking out five. Norris was much more economical with his pitches than what we have grown accustomed to. Coming off an outing in which he threw 122 pitches in 5 & 2/3 innings, Norris threw only 96 in last night’s win.
For the third straight game the Astros jumped out to an early lead. The first five Houston hitters reached base against Angels’ starter Tommy Hanson, staking Norris to a 3-0 lead before he even took the mound. Norris not only made the lead hold up — he completely shut down one of the most feared lineups in the league.
After hitting Peter Bourjos with a pitch to start the game, Norris quickly settled in. Bourjos was erased on the basepaths when Mike Trout followed with a tailor made double play grounder. The Angels never posed any type of a threat after that, failing to advance a runner past first base against Norris all night. Bud was extra careful with Albert Pujols, walking him twice. And Norris was able to retire the slumping Josh Hamilton every time he followed Pujols to the plate.
Hamilton added the icing to the cake with his mental blunder that ended the game. After Pujols led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, Hamilton grounded into a force play and was safe at first. Mark Trumbo followed with a popup that catcher Jason Castro caught in foul territory. Inexplicably, Hamilton had rounded second base and continued toward third after the ball was caught. Castro then threw to Jose Altuve, covering first base, and the shutout was complete. Hamilton kept on running straight into the Angels dugout (Insert your own “he must have really needed d drink” joke, here.)
It was a strange ending to a game that seemed to perfectly encapsulate the Angels slow start to the 2013 season. The star-studded team has yet to gel as a unit and individual lapses have cost them.
Altuve led the Astros offensive attack with three hits on the night. Justin Maxwell and Rick Ankiel added two hits apiece and combined to drive in all five runs. The Astros showed patience at the plate, forcing Hanson to throw 108 pitches in five innings. Hanson was already over 70 pitches by the third inning. Angels pitchers threw 188 pitches in the game, compared to 110 for Astros hurlers.
Lucas Harrell takes the mound for the Astros tonight against Garrett Richards and the Angels. Harrell will be trying to bounce back after a rough outing against the A’s in his last start. Richards is making his first start of the season after four relief appearances. Game time is 8:10 CDT.