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Norris, Astros bullpen hold off M's

The SportsXchange

HOUSTON -- The going had been so tough of late for the Houston Astros' rotation that the five uneven innings right-hander Bud Norris supplied Tuesday night appeared like an oasis in the desert.

After a series of creative roster moves enabled the Astros to reset the back end of their bullpen, three relievers finished a 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Minute Maid Park.

Jose Veras worked a perfect ninth inning for his second save, complementing the earlier handiwork of left-hander Travis Blackley and right-hander Hector Ambriz, who has emerged as the setup man. Aside from a solo homer surrendered by Blackley to Mariners designated hitter Kendrys Morales in the eighth inning, the Astros (6-14) received impeccable work from their relievers.

"Bud did a great job of battling and giving us five solid innings, which allowed us to turn to a well-rested bullpen," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "And they did a great job of closing out the game."

Morales' home run was only the second extra-base hit for the Mariners (8-14), who bashed three homers in their 7-1 victory over the Astros on Monday night.

"The at-bats are getting better -- and we did have a lot of long outs, too -- but we still have to do better than that," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "I do think we have guys heading in the right direction; that is obvious by the quality of the at-bats. Having said that, it's all about winning and losing, and we have to do a better job of finding ways to win ballgames. We worked really hard tonight to keep them at three runs, but we're still not getting the consistency that we have got to have."

Norris (3-2) labored from the start, loading the bases with two outs in the first before retiring Raul Ibanez on a sharp ground ball to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. He retired the side in order only once, in the fourth.

However, Norris surrendered just one run, and even then, the Astros recorded an out on the play. In the second, Endy Chavez was erased between second and third after his double scored Dustin Ackley from first. Seattle managed five additional baserunners before Morales' blast, but only Michael Morse and Kyle Seager advanced into scoring position.

"A lot of stuff kind of fell in again, but you've got to keep grinding and making the next pitch," Norris said. "I thought that double play with Morales there in the third was a really big inning for us. I definitely didn't have my best stuff by any means, but I battled and got through five and gave this team an opportunity to win, and we did. I'm very happy with the results."

The Astros offered a bizarre mix of good and bad in generating run support. Their early baserunning was exquisite, with catcher Jason Castro scoring from first base in the first on a two-out Chris Carter single to left field. It helped the Astros' cause that Ibanez bobbled the ball, but third base coach Dave Trembley rolled the dice waving Castro home, with the subsequent relay throw following a second too late.

After Gonzalez opened the third with a home run to right that snapped a 1-1 tie, Jose Altuve and Fernando Martinez singled in consecutive at-bats, with Altuve taking third base on the Martinez hit and Martinez advancing to second on the throw to third. The Astros fumbled an opportunity at a bigger inning when Castro and Carter struck out in succession, but Justin Maxwell drove home Altuve by taking a pitch from Hisashi Iwakuma off his left hand with the bases loaded.

Maxwell departed following that inning, and a subsequent X-ray revealed a left wrist fracture. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

The Astros were victorious despite finishing 0-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Iwakuma (2-1) struck out a season-high 11 batters over five innings. He allowed three runs (two earned) and stranded five runners in scoring position. Collectively, the Astros stranded eight in scoring position, but their futility wasn't fatal.

"I feel like the last couple of games, we have swung the bats pretty well," Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak said. "It's just one of those things, though, where they just didn't fall for us in this game. We have to just keep doing some of the things we have been doing to get out of this and keep going. We had guys on, we're getting on base and we're hitting the balls hard.

"Things just did not go our way tonight."

NOTES: The Washington Nationals claimed left-hander Xavier Cedeno off waivers from Houston. The Astros designated Cedeno for assignment on April 18 after he posted an 11.37 ERA in five appearances this month. ... With his single to left field in the fifth inning, Seager extended his hitting streak to a career-best 12 games.
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