Results tagged ‘ Bud Norris ’

Who’s the Astros’ MVP in 2011

When outfielders Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn were traded in late July, the race for Astros Most Valuable Player suddenly became wide open. Astros manager Brad Mills was asked Friday who he thought should get it, and he threw out the names of Clint Barmes, Matt Downs, Carlos Lee, Bud Norris and Wandy Rodriguez.

If you look at statistics, Lee appears on his way to 20 homers and 90 RBIs, which could give him the edge. Barmes has played a Gold Glove-caliber defense and has shown some pop offensively, though he’s remained under .250 for much of the year. Downs has been a huge catalyst off the bench has had some huge hits, and Rodriguez has an 11-10 record on a team that’s going to lose 100 games.

So who’s your pick for team MVP in 2011?

Astros’ lineup and preview vs. Giants

This is it. Game 7. Well, it’s about as much drama as the Astros can have these days, entering Sunday’s series finale against the Giants with a chance to win the season series from the defending World Series champions.

The Astros won two out of three in Houston last weekend, and the Giants have won two out of three in this series, including a walk-off win in the 10th on Saturday night.

Sunday will be a dream come true for Astros starter Bud Norris.

Norris, who grew up in the Bay Area, will make his first Major League start in San Francisco against the Giants in Sunday’s series finale. Norris has never faced the Giants in his two years in the Majors.

“I’m excited to play against my childhood team, which should be interesting,” he said. “But like any other day, I’m going to go out there and do my job and go pitch.”

Norris remembers going to games back when the Giants played at Candlestick Park. Norris has been doing his hometown of Greenbrae, Calif., proud this season in an otherwise rough one for the Astros. Norris has a 3.73 ERA, with a 6-8 record.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Jordan Schafer

SS Angel Sanchez

LF J.D. Martinez

1B Carlos Lee

2B Matt Downs

RF Brian Bogusevic

3B Jimmy Paredes

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Bud Norris

Astros lineup Saturday vs. Rays

Matt Downs, who hit a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth inning Wednesday at Arlington to beat the Rangers, is in the starting lineup for tonight’s game against the Rays at Minute Maid Park.

Here is the lineup:

CF Michael Bourn

2B Jeff Keppinger

RF Hunter Pence

LF Carlos Lee

SS Matt Downs

1B Brett Wallace

3B Chris Johnson

C Carlos Corporan

RHP Bud Norris

Norris reacts to dismissal of Arnsberg

Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who didn’t get a chance to comment about the dismissal of pitching coach Brad Arnsberg prior to Tuesday’s game because he was pitching, said following a 1-0 loss to the Pirates that he was sorry to see him go.

“It’s tough, you know,” Norris said. “Some of us were a little upset, but what needs to be done, needs to be done. That’s not stuff we can control, unfortunately. Arnsberg always had our back and I can’t give the guy enough praise for what he taught me in the year and a half he was here and everything I’ve learned from him over a year and a half is over the moon.

“I have to give him a lot of credit for helping me be who I am today and for helping be get better and progress. It was tough, but if we needed to make a move, we needed to make a move. Like I said, those decisions aren’t up to us.”

Astros-Padres preview

The Astros, coming off of a three-game sweep against the Cubs where they averaged 7.3 runs and had at least 10 hits in each game, will try to keep things going against the Padres tonight in San Diego. Bud Norris (2-4, 3.76 ERA) will be on the mound for the Astros against Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer (1-3, 3.60).

Norris is fifth in the Majors at 9.81 strikeouts per nine innings, but is looking for his first road win of the season (0-3). Stauffer, who got his first win of the season in his 11th start on Saturday, became the fifth Padres pitcher to take 11 starts to get his first win of the season.

The Astros have been generating a lot of hits in their last six road games. In fact, the Cardinals are the only team this season to have at least 10 hits in seven consecutive road games, a mark the Astros can equal tonight.

When it comes to pitching, the Astros have done well against the Padres. Since the start of the 2010 season, Houston has a 2.72 ERA in 99 1/3 innings against San Diego – that’s the third-best ERA against the Padres in that span.

Want more reason to be optimistic about the Astros’ chances? The Padres are 9-20 at home this year, including 4-15 in night home games. They are hitting a Major League-worst .199 at Petco Park.

Here is the Astros’ lineup:

CF Michael Bourn – Has driven in the winning run in each of the last two games and has nine RBIs in his past nine games.

SS Clint Barmes – His .307 batting average against the Padres in his best against any opponent in his career.

RF Hunter Pence – Hitting .436 during his current 13-game hitting streak.

LF Carlos Lee – Hitting .344 with three doubles and four RBIs in his past eight games.

2B Jeff Keppinger – Has reached base in 10 of his 23 plate appearances this season.

1B Brett Wallace – Ranks fourth in the Majors in hitting in the seventh inning or later with a .397 average.

3B Chris Johnson – Has hit safely in five of his last six games.

C J.R. Towles – This is his 24th start, which is his most since a career-high 47 starts in 2008.

RHP Bud Norris – He’s 0-3 with a 6.55 ERA in four road starts.

Astros-Marlins postgame notes from Saturday

The Astros blew another late lead Saturday, allowing the Marlins to roar back from three runs down in the seventh and win 7-5. The loss drops the Astros to 1-7, which is only one game better than they’re 0-8 start of a year ago.

The Astros led 4-1 through six innings Saturday and watched the Marlins get Bud Norris for three runs to tie the game, before Fernando Abad allowed a pair of runs in the seventh to give Florida a 6-4 lead. On Friday, Houston had a 1-0 lead through six and a 2-1 lead through seven and couldn’t hang on.

Alas, here are some postgame notes:

  • The Astros posted a season-high five runs on a season-high 11 hits Saturday night.
  • RHP Bud Norris got the first extra-base hit, run scored and RBI by an Astros pitcher this season, coming in the third inning
  • C J.R. Towles picked up another hit and has now hit safely in all four of his starts this season.
  • 2B Bill Hall went 1-for-4 and has now hit safely in four straight games since collecting a .286 average in that span. In his firstfour games of the season, Hall went 1-for-15.
  • By doubling in the eighth inning, LF Carlos Lee became the first Astros player to record a single, double, triple and home run this season.
  • Jason Bourgeois collected the Astros’ first pinch-hit this season with an infield single in the ninth. Prior to his at-bat, Astros pinch-hitters had combined to go 0-for-10.
  • 1B Brett Wallace has recorded RBIs in five consecutive games and in five of his last six games.
  • SS Angel Sanchez snapped a personal streak of 19 games and 69 at-bats between extra-base hits before doubling in the first inning. His previous extra-base hit came on Sept. 11, 2010 against the Dodgers.

Analyzing the Astros rotation

Besides a strong effort from Brett Myers in the April 1 season opener at Philadelphia, the first time through the rotation was a rough one for the rest of the Astros starters: Wandy Rodriguez, Bud Norris, J.A. Happ and Nelson Figueroa.

Myers has started two of the Astros’ six games and is 0-0 with a 2.03 ERA, allowing nine hits and three earned runs in 13 1/3 innings. He’s given the Astros their only two quality starts and appears to be picking up where he left off last year, when he was one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball and went at least six innings in all but one start.

The Astros’ 8.22 ERA by their starters ranks last in baseball entering Friday, well behind Detroit’s 7.75 ERA. The good news is it can only get better, and I’d be surprised if a couple of those guys didn’t come back with good outings this week. And that brings us to today’s poll question. Which starter, other than Myers, do you think is most likely to have a better season?


With the Astros set to play 10 consecutive games at home starting tonight against the Marlins at Minute Maid Park, it will be an important second time through the rotation for Rodriguez, Norris, Happ and Figueroa. The quartet went a combined 0-4 with a 12.98 ERA in their first four starts combined, with only Figueroa pitching beyond the fourth inning. And that was because the bullpen so taxed that manager Brad Mills had to get as much out of him as he could.

The good news is Rodriguez, Norris and Happ — who will face the Marlins this weekend — have pitched better at Minute Maid Park:

  • Rodriguez is 3-2 with a 2.35 ERA in six career starts vs. Marlins and is 38-26 in his career at Minute Maid.
  • Norris is 5-5 with a 4.43 ERA in 14 home starts last year.
  • Happ is 4-1 with a 3.22 ERA in eight career starts at Minute Maid.

The message here is don’t panic. It’s one time through the rotation against a pair of teams favored to win their divisions. Not that the Astros don’t want to one day be able to beat good teams — they did sweep the Phillies last year — but there is plenty of baseball left. The Marlins, Cubs and Padres are coming to town, and if the Astros manage a, say, 6-4 homestand, they’re 7-9 and in much better shape than they were last year at that time.

Game 30: Pitchers struggle in loss to Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays were able to take better advantage of the wind blowing out to right field at Osceola County Stadium on Thursday afternoon than the Astros, who dropped an 11-3 decision to the Rays, who hit a pair of home runs.

The big news of the day were the roster moves made by the Astros, which included sending Tommy Manzella and Brian Bogusevic to Minor League camp. Also, they re-signed former Astros pitcher Fernando Nieve to a Minor League contract.

Here’s the breakdown:

What went right: Bud Norris got off to a quick start, sending down six batters in a row after allowing the first two hitters to reach. The Rays started getting better swings in the third and fourth and pushed across four runs, but Norris was able to throw 79 pitches and looks strong.

“The whole point here, even winding down, is getting those pitches and getting the arm strength up there,” Norris said. “I felt like I threw a lot of quality pitches, good pitches that were close and competitive. The three walks to Johnny [Damon] didn’t help me, but I felt good.”

Mark Melancon was the only pitcher on the mound Thursday that did not give up a run. He pitched a scoreless seventh, retiring all three batters he faced, including one by strikeout.

Michael Bourn (.283 average this spring) went 2-for-4 at the plate, and Brett Wallace went 2-for-3 with singles in his first two at-bats and he drove in his 18th run of the spring. Jason Michaels had an RBI double, and J.R. Towles connected on his third homer of the spring.

What went wrong: Jeff Fulchino had a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth before running into trouble in the sixth. He gave up a two-run homer to Sam Fuld that was likely wind-aided, but it still counts. Fulchino allowed two hits and one walk and struck out two batters in two innings.

Wilton Lopez had a rare blip, giving up two runs and two hits in one inning, raising his ERA to 3.38 (the same as Melancon’s). Fernando Abad’s rough spring continued as he couldn’t get the ball down and allowed three hits and three runs, including a home run, in the ninth inning. The lefty’s spring ERA is 11.74.

Carlos Lee (.204 spring average) went 0-for-4, and Chris Johnson (.263) went 0-for-4 for the second game in a row. Bill Hall went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and is hitting .188 this spring.

What they said: “With Bud, he had good stuff and he was able to work out of that jam in the first and really did a good job. As the innings went along and kept getting into those jams, he started to overthrow a little bit, but his stuff was still there. Abad, we’d like to get his fastball command a little better. The other pitches, he has good command and is down.” — Astros manager Brad Mills.

What’s next: Right-hander Nelson Figueroa, the Astros’ fifth starter, will make his final start of the spring when the Astros face the New York Yankees at 6:05 p.m. CT on Friday in Tampa, Fla. Ryan Rowland-Smith, Ross Wolf, Jose Valdez and Gustavo Chacin are also scheduled to pitch for the Astros, who will take every position player to the game except for left-fielder Carlos Lee and catchers J.R. Towles and Carlos Corporan.

Injury update: Hunter Pence, who took three stitches in his right shin Wednesday after sliding home, was held out Thursday as a precaution by manager Brad Mills. … Second baseman Bill Hall fouled a ball off his foot, but said he was fine.

Ah, yes. The return of the pictures:

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Above: Mark Melancon pitches to Ryan Rowland-Smith while I play umpire. I called it a strike.

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Above: Brad Mills hits some ground balls during drills.

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Above: Robinson Cancel (left) puts on his gear as he talks to Carlos Corporan. Astros signed Cancel a couple of weeks ago to Minor League deal, and they reassigned him to Major League camp on Thursday. He will stay with the team through next week’s exhibition against Boston, but will start the year in Triple-A.

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Above: Pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers put in their work in the bullpen Thursday morning, with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg watching closely.

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Above: The flags give an indication of how hard the wind was blowing out Thursday.

Game 24: Bud bests the Cardinals once again

The Astros beat the split-squad Cardinals, 3-2, on a hot Saturday at Osceola County Stadium, taking their Grapefruit League winning streak to four games. Bud Norris looked extremely sharp against the Cardinals — what else is new? — and the Astros made the most of their seven hits.

Here is the rundown:

What went right: Let’s start with Norris, who had his best spring outing of the year. He pitched five scoreless innings, allowing six singles, no walks and striking out five batters. Norris threw 79 pitches, including 54 strikes.

“Spring’s been ideally getting in your work and the numbers haven’t really been there, but I felt good today and everything was there,” Norris said. “I really mixed pitches well. I was really happy with the seven ground balls and no walks. That was the key for me today, pounding it down in the strike zone.”

Jeff Fulchino and Mark Melancon each threw a scoreless inning in relief, with Melancon lowering his spring ERA to 1.50.

At the plate, the Astros spread seven hits around with Jason Bougeois (.341 spring average), Clint Barmes (.239), Brett Wallace (.362), Matt Downs (.290), Carlos Corporan (.421), J.R. Towles (.379) and Tommy Manzella (.333) each getting one hit. Manzella, Wallace and Corporan had doubles.

Barmes made one of the best defensive plays you’ll ever see at shortstop in the second inning when he went deep into the hole between second and shortstop and threw out Mark Hamilton at first base by a hair. Bourgeois nearly upstaged him in the seventh with a terrific diving catch in center field. Bourgeois then rose to his feet and threw out the runner at first for a great double play. He’s hitting .341 and is making a strong case to make the club as the fifth outfielder.

What went wrong: Not much. There were a few 0-fers: Carlos Lee, Chris Johnson and Jason Michaels were each 0-for-3, though Lee drove in a run. Bill Hall was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Brandon Lyon and Casey Fien each allowed two hits and one run in two innings of work.

What they said: “He did have some good results. The thing about Bud is he was really able to make some pitches with both his slider and his fastball and moving his fastball around the zone. He’d get behind a few hitters and he’d come back and when he needed to make a pitch he was able to do it with his fastball and his slider, and he threw some real nice changeups. That was pretty special as well.” — manager Brad Mills on Bud Norris’ strong outing Saturday.

What’s next: All five candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation will be in action Sunday when the Astros play their sixth and final split-squad games of the season. Ryan Rowland-Smith will start in Kissimmee against the Pirates, with Jordan Lyles following him. Lance Pendleton is also scheduled to pitch in that game. Nelson Figueroa will get the start in Lake Buena Vista against the Braves, with Aneury Rodriguez to follow him.

Injury update: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, whose previous scheduled start last Tuesday was scratched because of a mild tendinitis in his right shoulder, will throw in the bullpen Sunday and is scheduled to return to the mound Tuesday against Washington in Viera. … Infielder Angel Sanchez (back) fielded ground balls Saturday and said his back feels fine. He will try to take batting practice Sunday. … Center fielder Michael Bourn will return to the lineup Sunday after being held out Saturday as a precaution. “He was under the weather a little bit but he played in the heat and I don’t want to get him run down and so tired he has a setback and get really sick,” manager Brad Mills said.

 Here are the photos:

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Above: Some Astros Minor Leaguers watch drills on one of the back fields.

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Above: Astros ace Brett Myers fires a pitch in the bullpen, with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg catching him.

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Above: Catcher Brian Esposito chases a ball during drills on Saturday morning.

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Above: Matt Downs makes solid contact in batting practice on Saturday.

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Above: Hunter Pence and Jose Cruz sign autographs.

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Above: Lance Berkman, making his return to Osceola County Stadium, yucks it up while he stretches with the Cardinals.

Game 18: Norris slowly gaining strength

The Astros’ split-squad team lost the Braves, 7-1, on Sunday afternoon in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The game was pretty uneventul for the Astros until the ninth inning, when Minor League outfielder Telvin Nash hit perhaps the longest homer in the history of Champion Stadium, sending a pitch over the giant scoreboard in left-center.

The Astros had a much better day against the Tigers in Lakeland, where J.R. Towles went 3-for-4 with his second homer of the spring in a 3-1 win. But since I was at Disney here’s the breakdown of the loss to the Braves:

What went right: Aneury Rodriguez, Brandon Lyon, Jeff Fulchino and Mark Melancon each threw one scoreless inning in relief, with Fulchino striking out a pair of batters. He has looked extremely sharp this spring and completely recovered from offseason elbow surgery. He’s likely pitched himself onto the Opening Day roster at this point.

Melancon gave up two hits and a walk, but escaped without allowing a run. The only hits the Astros managed were by Anderson Hernandez, Hunter Pence, Tommy Manzella and a mammoth home run by Minor League outfielder Telvin Nash.

What went wrong: The Astros were held to four hits in 31 at-bats and struck out 10 times against the Braves. Bud Norris started and allowed five hits, five runs and two walks in three innings, but Norris is still working on pitches and his outing shouldn’t be any kind of cause for alarm. The good news, Norris said, is he got his pitch count up and he felt fine.

Carlos Lee made a fielding error in left field, and Arcenio Leon was roughed up in one inning of work, allowing two hits and two runs and one home run.

What they said: “Just the biggest point right now is getting the pitch count up there, and I felt pretty good. The slider wasn’t where I wanted it to be today. The first home run it definitely hung up there and the guy made a good swing on it, so I’m still working on stuff. All in all, I was worried about getting my pitch count up there.” — pitcher Bud Norris, who gave up home runs to Wilkin Ramirez in the second and Chipper Jones in the third inning Sunday.

What’s next: The race for the fifth spot in the rotation heats up when Nelson Figueroa takes the mound for the Astros against his former team, the Philadelphia Phillies, at 12:05 p.m. CT at Osceola County Stadium. Figueroa has won both is his previous Grapefruit League starts, allowing one earned run in five innings. Reliever Wilton Lopez, who has four perfect one-inning outings under his belt this spring, is also scheduled to pitch for Houston.

Injury update: Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez has come down with mild tendinitis in his left shoulder and will be skipped Tuesday as a precaution. … Astros general manager Ed Wade said he was pleased with how right-hander Alberto Arias, who’s throwing on flat ground, and infielder Jeff Keppinger, who’s coming off foot surgery eight weeks ago, are progressing from their injuries. 

Here are the pictures:

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Above: Astros players stretch prior to Sunday’s game against the Braves.

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Above: The Astros had been using the designated hitter all spring, but Bud Norris became the first pitcher to hit in a game. He struck out in his only at-bat against the Braves.

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Above: Brandon Lyon is interviewed by MLB Network prior to the game.

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Above: Carlos Lee plays catch on the field prior to Sunday’s game.

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Above: Koby Clemens makes contact during batting practice.

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Above: Hunter Pence is never shy about signing autographs for Astros fans.

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Above: Michael Bourn grabs a bat and emerges from the dugout for Sunday BP.