Tonight was Bud Norris‘ last start in June. And once again, Norris was on top of his game.
At this point each start for Norris could be his swan song in an Astros’ uniform. While this is certainly bittersweet for some fans, the right hander is also doing a pretty good job of boosting his trade value.
For as good as Norris pitched tonight, he was not the story. The story was the inability of the Astros bullpen to keep the Angels off the scoreboard. That coupled with a lack of offensive run production did Houston in tonight.
Heading into the ninth inning, it was only a one run deficit but Paul Clemens and Travis Blackley could not get the job done. They gave way to Hector Ambriz who promptly allowed a two run single to Erick Aybar giving the Angels a three run lead.
The Angels needed those runs as the Astros showed a little life in the bottom of the ninth. Carlos Pena led off with a walk and J.D. Martinez followed with a double. Instead Carlos Corporan and Marc Krauss sandwiched strikeouts around a Matt Dominguez sacrifice fly which made it a 4-2 game. For the game, Houston left 16 runners on base as a team which is simply unacceptable.
Norris threw 94 pitches in his seven innings of work and got nothing for his efforts. He lowered his ERA to 3.35 while giving up only one unearned run on four hits and one walk. The 28 year old also struck out five Angels as he continued his recent success. Of his past eight starts, seven have been quality starts for Norris.
In the series opener against the Angels, Brandon Barnes both helped and hindered Norris’ quest for his sixth win.
Hank Conger lead off the top of the third inning by hitting a shot to the depths of center field. It looked like at minimum like it would be a sure double. Instead Barnes continued with his strong defensive play and trend highlight reel catches by robbing Conger.
However in the sixth inning, Barnes cost Norris a run with an error on Erick Aybar‘s single to start of the inning. The error allowed Aybar to reach second base where he was able to score on Mike Trout‘s single to tie the game at 1-1.
Two innings later, the Astros defense abandoned them again. This time Conger got his lead off hit past Barnes for a double. Paul Clemens then walked Aybar to put runners on first and second with nobody out. A J.B. Shuck fly ball moved the runners into scoring position, but Ronny Cedeno instead of getting Aybar at second base, threw the ball into right field allowing Conger to score putting the Angels ahead 2-1.
The Astros certainly made Jerome Williams look like an ace tonight. Williams went 6.1 innings with his only blemish being a Jason Castro solo home run in the fourth inning. Other than that, Williams scattered four hits and three walks.
Over aggressiveness could have potentially cost the Astros an opportunity to take the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. A Jose Altuve single and Castro walk gave Houston runners at first and second with one out. After Conger dropped a Chris Carter popup for what would have been the second out of the inning. Altuve then ran the Astros out of the inning by getting caught stealing at third base on a borderline call. Regardless, it might not have been the best situation for Altuve to be running in. Carter then ended the inning by grounding out.
In the eighth inning it looked like the Astros had another chance at tying the game. Altuve walked with one out and then moved to third base on a Brett Wallace single. Castro and Carter then flew out to end the inning leaving two runners stranded.
There was nothing more Norris could have really done tonight, as he was failed by both his defense and his offense.