It was not a good start to the second half of the season for Bud Norris tonight against the Seattle Mariners.
Bud Norris (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
The Astros tasked their ace with the job of kicking off the post All-Star game schedule with a win. Instead the potential trade candidate only lasted 5.2 innings and gave up six runs as the Astros lost 10-7 to the Mariners.
For all intents and purposes, the game was put out of reach in the sixth inning as Norris’ 120th pitch of the night left the yard courtesy of Brad Miller and his first major league home run. Miller would go on to really secure the game in the Mariners’ favor with a three run shot in the eighth inning off of Josh Fields. But in actuality it ended up being a competitive game at least in the box score.
And after the Astros’s bats showed a little bit of life in the eighth inning, Miller’s second home run of the game ended up being the margin of victory for Seattle.
Justin Maxwell started off the inning with a single under the glove of Miller. Brandon Barnes followed with a double to complete his cycle (more on this in a separate article). A Matt Dominguez RBI grounder scored Maxwell to make it 9-4, and then Brett Wallace‘s fifth home run of the season made it 9-6.
A triple by Jose Altuve and a Jason Castro walk caused Seattle to summon closer Tom Wilhelmsen who promptly struck out Chris Carter to end the threat. The Astros would then go on to add a ninth inning run off Wilhelmsen to conclude the scoring, but the final outcome of the game was never in doubt.
Heading into the top of the fourth inning, things were looking good for Bo Porter‘s squad. Norris started the game off with three scoreless innings having allowed only two hits and a walk. Barnes got his ace an early lead as he hit a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning on his way to a career night. Barnes added an RBI triple in the fourth, driving in Maxwell as the Astros tried to get back in the game after Norris’ disastrous top of the inning.
As has been the case for Norris this season, he got into a little bit of trouble, and it just snowballed for him.
After Kendrys Morales led off the inning with a single, Kyle Seager hit what would have been a fly ball out in a lot of parks, but instead was a two run home run into the second row of the Crawford Boxes. After retiring the next batter, Norris hit Michael Saunders and walked Mike Zunino leading to a Dustin Ackley double to drive both Mariners in.
Norris then settled down and got through the fifth inning no problem, and at that point Porter should have gone to his bullpen. Instead, he brought his starter out for one more inning which led to two more Mariners runs before Wesley Wright came out of the bullpen to get out of the inning.
Leaving Norris in for the sixth inning was not the only questionable decision Porter made with his pitchers tonight. Even though Fields looked less than impressive, I am not going to pin that on Porter. But what I will, is the use of Hector Ambriz.
In case Astros fans forgot why Ambriz was sent down to AAA, the reminded them by giving up a Justin Smoak mammoth home run to begin the ninth inning. A Saunders single and a few pitches that gave Castro trouble behind the plate followed for the right hander along with a walk to Ackley. But Ambriz was able to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Even though tonight ended in a loss, it was still nice to see some fight out of the offense to start the second half. Hopefully this is something that the bats can continue.