This was a weird one. If I were to tell you that Bud Norris struck out 10 and the Astros pounded out six runs and 10 hits, would you have expected them to lose?
Me either. Norris pitched well, but was victimized a couple times on his fastball. The three-run home run to catcher John Jaso in the fifth inning was part of a nightmare inning where Norris gave up hit after hit after hit. He only walked three batters, but had trouble holding runners on (Crawford stole three bases with him on the mound). One of the runs was also unearned, as Geoff Blum was unable to hold onto a Tommy Manzella throw. Crawford reached on the play and scored two batters later.
As for the offense, Jeff Keppinger and Hunter Pence were probably the two best hitters. Without Lance Berkman or Michael Bourn in the lineup, the Astros still managed to beat up Rays starter David Price. In the first inning, Keppinger and Jason Michaels both singled, with Keppinger taking third on MIchael's knock. Pence then took an uncharacteristic walk, loading the bases for Carlos Lee. El Bufalo hit a hard, hard line drive to the right-center gap, but Ben Zobrist came out of nowhere to catch the ball, turning a three-run double into a one-run sacrifice fly.
Pedro Feliz luckily followed up with a three run home run over the Crawford Boxes. It was the 1,000th home run in Minute Maid Park history, forming some symmetry with Feliz, since he recently collected his 1,000th career hit.
Pence hit a home run of his own in the fifth inning off Price, who entered the game with a 1.88 ERA but a 4.01 xFIP. He finished the game 2 for 4 with two RBIs, two runs scored and one strikeout, hitting out of the three-hoel with Berkman on the bench. It was a scheduled day off for Puma. Manager Brad MIlls said before the game that Berkman hasn't had a day off since he returned from the DL, except for the built-in off days on the schedule. Bourn had his suspension reduced to one game, so served that game on Sunday.
Keppinger was moved up to the leadoff spot and went 3 for 5 with a double and two runs scored. He ended the series 6 for 13 and obviously has taken nicely to the everyday role. Keppinger's hits were all struck well, too; they were not cheap hits. Unfortunately for him, he's one of the few Astros hitting the ball well right now.
Jason Michaels also had two hits while Humberto Quintero hit his second double of the season. The Astros haven't had this many extra-base hits in a game in forever.
If only the bullpen could have held on to this game. Brian Moehler relieved Norris in the sixth inning but promptly gave up three hits and two runs. He then left the game without recording one out. Chris Sampson was also hit hard (on his birthday, no less), giving up four hits and three runs in an inning of work. The big hit against Sampson came when Jaso doubled down the first base line with the bases loaded. All three runs scored, giving Jaso four RBIs in the game.
Now, another road trip awaits against Ol Pete's Brewers. At least they're playing as poorly as Houston right now. Maybe we can get another victory.