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Astros' Norris baffles Angels all-star lineup

The SportsXchange

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Bud Norris shut out the Los Angeles Angels on three hits over seven innings to lead the Houston Astros to a 5-0 victory on Friday night at Angel Stadium, an outing so dominating that no Angels baserunner even reached second base against him.

For good measure, the three Astros relievers who finished the final two innings did the same.

The Angels' only hits off Norris were singles by Brendan Harris (third inning), Mark Trumbo (fourth) and Hank Conger (seventh). Albert Pujols had a single in the ninth inning off Hector Ambriz, but that was it.

"This guy's a No. 1 starter and he's pitched a lot of big games," Astros manager Bo Porter said of Norris. "I think his best years are definitely ahead of him. He's growing up right in front of our eyes, and it's a pleasure to see. The last game he was outstanding and gave us everything we needed, and tonight he was absolutely fantastic."

The Astros improved to 4-6 with the win, their third in a row. Meanwhile, the Angels sunk deeper into the A.L. West basement, the loss their fifth in a row and their eighth in nine games. At 2-8, the Angels have the worst record in the American League and it's the worst start through 10 games since 1961 (also 2-8) in franchise history.

Justin Maxwell had a double, home run and two RBIs, and Rick Ankiel had a single, double and three RBIs to lead the Astros offense against Angels starter Tommy Hanson. Hanson gave up five runs and eight hits in five innings, continuing a streak in which no Angel starter has pitched into the seventh inning this season.

"These guys are doing a great job of taking the game plan and executing it and really just locking into their at-bats and keeping the line moving," Porter said of his hitters. "And we're getting big hits once we get guys in scoring position.

"(Ankiel) has been a great impact player. I mean, not only on the field but also off the field. His veteran leadership and what he brings to the clubhouse has been tremendous. He's had some pretty big hits here early on in the season."

Norris held the Angels' marquee players -- Mike Trout, Pujols and Josh Hamilton -- hitless, the trio going a combined 0 for 7 with two walks (Pujols had both) against him. In all, the Angels had four hits in the game. Since moving from batting leadoff to the No. 2 spot in the order, Trout is 0 for 8.

As a team, the Angels are hitting just .127 (10 for 79) with runners in scoring position, but it wasn't a concern Friday because no baserunner ever got into scoring position in the game.

To make matters worse for the Angels, the game ended when Hamilton was doubled up at first base on a foul popup to the catcher. Hamilton was on his way to third when the catch was made just in front of the Angels dugout.

"That's obviously a bad play. ... That's a mental mistake," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "As perfect as players try to play, and as hard as they try to play, unfortunately mental mistakes are occasionally going to creep into the scenario. We've seen it from other teams, and unfortunately it got us tonight. And Josh knows it, he's accountable, he knows he messed up. So we're going to move on. It's a mental mistake. It happens. It's obviously ugly when it happens and we're going to move on. That's it."

Hanson could not have gotten off to a worse start in his home debut with the club. He gave up three runs and five hits in the first inning alone, and it could have been worse. Maxwell was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple in the inning. As it was, the key hit of the inning came from Ankiel, who had a two-run single.

The Astros increased their lead to 4-0 in the second inning on Maxwell's towering home run to center field, his first of the season.

Hanson found more trouble in the third, and again it was Ankiel doing the damage with an RBI double. Hanson didn't appear to be long for the night, having made 81 pitches through three innings. But he was able to get through five innings, allowing five runs and eight hits.

"I went out there and I was trying to be too fine," Hanson said. "I fell behind in some counts, and then you have to be aggressive when you're in a hitter's count, and it didn't work out too well. Later I pitched better, but early, it was no good."

NOTES: Angels third baseman Alberto Callaspo was not in the starting lineup Friday against the Astros because of a strained right calf, suffered Thursday against the A's. He is day-to-day. Starting at third base Friday was Luis Jimenez, who was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake, where he was hitting .367 (11 for 30). To make room on the roster for Jimenez, the Angels optioned outfielder J.B. Shuck to Salt Lake. ... Angels shortstop Erick Aybar was not in the starting lineup for the third consecutive game Friday because of a bruised left heel. He is day-to-day. Brendan Harris started at shortstop Friday. ... Without Callaspo and Aybar available Friday, Angels manager Mike Scioscia put CF Peter Bourjos in the leadoff spot. Bourjos is a career .254 hitter (.276 OBP) in the leadoff spot. Scioscia moved LF Mike Trout to the No. 2 spot on Thursday. ... Astros DH/first baseman Chris Carter has been a streaky hitter all season, only lately he's streaking for the better. After starting the season 1 for 19 with 10 strikeouts in his first five games, Carter went into Friday's game against the Angels with nine hits, including three home runs, in his last four games, raising his season average to .270. ... Astros right-hander Alex White, a candidate for the starting rotation entering spring training, had season-ending Tommy John surgery on his right elbow Thursday. White, who came to the Astros in an offseason trade with the Rockies, injured his elbow in his final spring start on March 29.
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