HOUSTON -- Houston Astros right-hander Bud Norris just missed earning his first career complete game, but a fourth double play defensively was enough to snuff the final Los Angeles Angels threat and yield a 3-1 Astros victory on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Norris (4-3) had twice worked eight innings, the last coming in a 4-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on June 8, 2011. He had thrown just 77 pitches entering the ninth inning, but Angels center fielder Mike Trout laced a single to left field before designated hitter Albert Pujols followed with a hard single to right under the glove of first baseman Carlos Pena.
That spelled the end for Norris. He gave way to closer Jose Veras, who had earned his third save with a perfect ninth inning Tuesday night. Veras responded again, striking out Mark Trumbo before getting Howie Kendrick to roll into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded.
The Astros (10-24) had a chance to extend their lead to three runs in the bottom of the eighth, but plate umpire Bill Welke called Jimmy Paredes out on a play at home when replays clearly revealed that Paredes touched the plate before catcher Hank Conger applied a delayed tag.
Norris was the picture of efficiency. By the close of the sixth inning he had yet to record a strikeout or issue a free pass, instead allowing the Angels to put the ball in play early in counts.
Norris allowed six hits through that stretch, but double-play ground balls off the bat of Trout in the first inning and Chris Ianetta in the fifth kept him on schedule and his pitch count ridiculously low. After getting Pujols to ground out to third baseman Matt Dominguez to cap the sixth, Norris' ledger included an amazingly miniscule 47 pitches.
Norris recorded his first strikeout in the seventh, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to retire Trumbo. He surrendered his first run on the next pitch when Josh Hamilton smacked an opposite-field home run to left.
Angels right-hander Joe Blanton was in cruise control early, too, hardly resembling a winless starter with an ERA a shade under 6.00. He retired the first seven batters he faced before coming undone in the third.
Starting with Dominguez, the eight-hole hitter, Blanton allowed doubles to three of four batters, with Marwin Gonzalez driving home Dominguez and Paredes plating Gonzalez. Had he not hustled into second base on his double to the left-center gap, Gonzalez would not have been in position to score when Paredes doubled down the right-field line.
Astros left fielder Chris Carter cranked the second pitch of the fifth inning, an 89-mph fastball, out to left field for his eighth home run and his second in as many nights, staking the Astros to a 3-0 lead.
NOTES: Angels shortstop Erick Aybar extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a single on the very first pitch of the game Wednesday night. His hitting streak is the longest by an Angel this season. ... With his perfect ninth inning on Tuesday, Astros closer Veras made his 164th appearance since the start of the 2011 season. He is tied with Milwaukee Brewers right-hander John Axford for the most appearances in that span, trailing only Colorado Rockies right-hander Matt Belisle.