HOUSTON - JUNE 08: Pitcher Bud Norris #20 of the Houston Astros throws against the St. Louis Cardibnals at Minute Maid Park on June 8, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Pitch 83 for Bud Norris was a 95 mile per hour fastball in the 7th inning with 2 outs. Usually this pitch would be like most others and disregarded as irrelevant. Except, this pitch burst the bubble on Bud Norris's no-hit bid. The end result was a Cardinal's homerun not by Albert Pujols, but former Astro Lance Berkman.
Bud Norris's no-hit bid was not entirely out of the blue. He came into this game with a 5-2 record, a 2.66 E.R.A., and 45 strikeouts in his career against the Cardinals. With stats like that, it is safe to say he is "Bud-weiser: King of Cardinals", and on this night, he lived up to the billing. Jaime Garcia came into this game with a 0-1 record with a 6.10 E.R.A. and 9 strikeouts versus the Astros. Even with Norris' dominance of the Cardinals, he would need the offense produce runs and not leave men on base. The Astros have not been plagued by hits this year, but have been plagued by lack of runs.
The inability to get runners home seemed to be happening early. Jason Bourgeois led off the 1st with a double but was stranded. Chris Johnson led off the 2nd with a double and was stranded again. Still, nothing came into fruition except for a zero in the run column.
The left on base plague would continue till the 3rd. Jeff Keppinger singled in the 3rd with 1 out. Then Pence's triple went all the way to Tall's hill and scored Keppinger to make the score 1-0. Carlos Lee had an R.B.I. groundout which scored Pence to make the score 2-0.
The Astros seemed to be cured of the left on base plague, while the Cardinals seemed to be so desperate for runners that they would take the left on base plague as Norris had a no hitter through 6 and 2/3rd innings, but no strikeouts. The only runners to get on base through 5 innings were Ryan Theriot who walked twice and Berkman who walked in the 5th. All three walks were followed by double plays.
Bourgeois singled to lead off the 5th and stole 2nd base for his 14th steal of the season. Bourgeois moved to 3rd after tagging up on Keppinger's fly out. Pence would ground out for the 2nd out, and Carlos Lee walked. Jason Michaels' single scored Bourgeois to extend the lead to 3, and moved Lee to 2nd.
Matt Carpenter walked in the 6th after Skip Schumaker flied out to Bourgeois. Jaime Garcia's evening ended in the 6th when Daniel Descalso pinch hit for Garcia. Garcia pitched 5 innings and surrendered 3 runs while throwing 99 pitches. Descalso would strikeout giving Norris his first strikeout of the night. Theriot flew out to end the inning. The streak of Cardinal walks leading to double plays ended, but the Cardinal's offense left the 6th inning without a hit.
Brian Tallet replaced Garcia in the 6th and pitched a scoreless 2/3rds inning, and was replaced by former closer Ryan Franklin who pitched scoreless relief into the 8th. Clint Barmes made a spectacular catch to preserve the no hitter for the 1st out of the 7th, but Lance Berkman's solo home run with two outs on a 3-1 count broke the no hitter and the shutout. Jason Motte replaced Franklin in the 8th. J.R. Towles hit a double with 2 outs. Michael Bourn pinch hit for Bud Norris and delivered a 2 out R.B.I. single to extend the Astros lead to 4-1. Bourn advanced to 2nd base with his 26th stolen base. Jason Bourgeios ended the inning with a groundout Norris's night ended with 104 pitches with 2 strikeouts while allowing 1 run, 1 hit, and 5 walks. Mark Melancon came in the 9th to close and earned his 6th save of the season. Pujols got the 2nd hit of the game with a two-out double. Berkman grounded out to end the game.
Some of Norris's success can be attributed to his strong use of his slider, which he uses at about a 34.7% clip. This seems to lead to a higher injury rate as discussed earlier in a piece this week by Fangraphs writer Eno Sarris. However on this evening, Norris was relying more on his fastball and changeup, and only used his slider 27% of the time. Norris looked as if he was following pitching coach Brad Arnsberg's philosophy of letting hitters beat themselves instead of just overpowering hitters. Now, if Norris could be this masterful against the Cubs, he could become Bud-weiser King of Light Bears and being a pest to the Cardinals is a good start. If he can keep pitching like tonight, maybe he can be King of Pitchers.