Bud Norris tried today. The Astros needed an ace quality performance from Norris this afternoon, and they just did not get it.
Norris did have a quality start, but that term is somewhat of a misnomer. The first problem here, is that Norris needed 108 pitches to get through his six innings. This should not come as a surprise to anyone who has suffered through the first weeks of the season, but it is clearly not conducive to success this season — especially when the defense lets the Astros down, and the bats just are not working.
By its definition a quality start requires the starting pitcher to pitch a minimum of six innings and give up three earned runs or less. That is what Norris did Sunday afternoon in Fenway Park. In his six innings, Norris gave up five runs, but only three of them were earned to go with nine hits and two walks. Not a terrible performance, but not what his team needed either.
In what has been an ongoing trend so far this season, the first reliever out of the bullpen outperformed the starter. Jose Cisnero had another good outing, pitching the last two innings while only giving up a David Ortiz RBI double while striking out three.
The first inning could have been a lot worse for Norris as he needed 33 pitches to get through it. After Ronny Cedeno continued his recent success by driving in Jason Castro with a first inning single, Norris gave that run back. In other circumstances, it would not have been an issue as he was able to get out of the inning only allowing one run, but that was the only offense Houston was able to muster all day.
For the next two innings, we had a pitcher’s duel until Stephen Drew‘s fourth inning triple drove in two runners. The fifth inning began with a Marwin Gonzalez throwing error that allowed Daniel Nava to reach second base. Doubles by Dustin Pedroia and Mike Carp accounted for the last two runs against Norris, and Gonzalez’s error made the final line look a lot better.
From an offense perspective, the Astros had seven hits, but really only put pressure on John Lackey in his sixth and final inning. Singles by Cedeno, Castro, and Carlos Pena loaded the bases with one out. This would have been the perfect opportunity to get back into the ballgame, but a Fernando Martinez strikeout and a Matt Dominguez ground out quickly ended those chances.
Coming into this season, I’m not sure that anyone would have thought that Ronny Cedeno would have been the best option for designated hitter today. But Cedeno has been producing and after his two hits today his average is up to .333 for the season. Chris Carter has been in a slump and giving him the day off today was the right move. Clearly though, Cedeno is not the long term answer here by any stretch.
The next player that Bo Porter needs to give a day off to is Robbie Grossman. Both this spring and so far this season in AAA, Grossman certainly piqued the interest of both Astros fans and their decision makers. However, his major league debut thus far has not been filled with success. It is too early to give up on him, and if you call him up, he has to play. However he is hitting .091 and a day off to clear his head would not be a bad thing.
From Boston, the Astros head to Yankee Stadium, and although the star power is lacking, things do not appear to be getting any easier.