Cougar's At The Ballpark Can't Change Astros Luck

HOUSTON TX - JULY 24: Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros receives the Heart & Hustle Award from former Astros player and general manager Bob Watson before the game at Minute Maid Park on July 24, 2012 in Houston, Texas. Cincinnati Reds win 4-2. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

Bud Norris was on tonight on Houston Cougar's night at Minute Maid Park. He was especially good when compared to his last outing where he gave up nine earned runs in 4.1 innings. Hopefully Norris is able to pick up the slack in the rotation now that Wandy is gone. Tonight his slider was sharp and he had good command of the outside part of the zone, although home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski's strike zone looked slightly expanded on the outside corner in the early going.

Norris cruised through the first inning getting Cosart to K looking, Stubbs to groundout, and Ryan Ludwick to strike out swinging after a Jay Bruce walk. The second inning was better than the first as Rolen flew out to left, Frazier struck out swinging, and Valdez grounded out to short. The Reds struck for one in the third, but it wasn't because the Reds got to Norris. Mesoraco led off the inning with a broken bat single to shallow right center that fell in for a hit. Bailey was successful in his bunt attempt to move Mesoraco into scoring position with just one out. Norris then induced a swing and a miss from Cosart for another strikeout and also the second out in the inning. Stubbs then hit a broken bat double to shallow right field to score Mesoraco. Bruce ended the inning on a flyout to left, but the damage was done.

Norris allowed two hits in the fourth, and the second one was the first hard hit ball he allowed on the evening off the bat of Todd Frazier. Still Norris was able to work out of trouble in that inning and also recorded his fifth strikeout on the night. Norris added two more K's of the looking variety in the fifth against Bailey and Stubbs. Norris dodged a bullet on three consecutive batters in the sixth as both Bruce and Ludwick lined out to start the inning. Rolen then hit a deep fly that was caught by Bogey at the wall to end the inning. Norris would go on to pitch one more inning and ended with a very nice line of seven innings pitched while allowing five hits, one run, and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts.

Homer Bailey may not have been as dominating as Bud Norris was, but he was more effective at limiting runs than Norris was.

We talked a lot about Norris up there, now let's get to the bullpen. Enerio Del Rosario, Xavier Cedeno, and Fernando Rodriguez all combined to pitch the eight inning, and gave up one run. The run scored on F-Rod, but was credited to Del Rosario. The Astros had the lead briefly going into the ninth inning, but for the second night in a row closer Francisco Cordero gave the game back to the reds. He was tagged for three earned runs this time (one of them scored after he left the game)on two hits and a walk in his two-thirds of an inning. Looks like the bullpen could be rough to watch from here on out.>/p>

Marwin Gonzalez led off for the good guys tonight and grounded out to his counterpart to get things started. Altuve then hit his first of two singles before Maxwell and CJ struckout to end the inning. Altuve's batting average has slowly crept back up to the .300 range as he now sits at .299.

The Astros looked like they might be able to draw first blood in the second when Moore led things off with a walk that was followed by a Martinez single to right. Unfortunately that rally was cut short on a grounder to second off the bat of Bogusevic. Martinez ran right into the tag applied by Valdez who then threw to first for the double play. This was a mental lapse on the part of Martinez as he probably should have stopped and forced valdez to either chase him, throw to second for the out, or throw to first and try to get the double play the hard way. The same presented itself again in the fifth, but Corporan slowed down and avoided the double play.

That was all of the Astros offense until the bottom of the eight when Altuve got things started on a double. Then with two outs Scott Moore doubled Altuve home to score the Astros first run. J.D. Martinez then doubled home Moore, and scored on the same play with the two throwing errors by Ludwick and Frazier. The Astros grasp of the lead would be brief, and though they made things interesting in the ninth with a Chris Snyder double they were unable to score off Chapman. Game over.

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