Norris doesn't buckle after early struggles

Norris doesn't buckle after early struggles

HOUSTON -- On most nights, Daniel Norris has a point when he loses his mechanics and he's searching for the way he throws a baseball. Sometimes, he never figures it out, and it dooms him. Other times, that inning fuels him.

It was fear of the former that had Tigers manager Brad Ausmus warming up long reliever Warwick Saupold as Norris worked with two on and nobody out in the fourth inning.

Norris gave up a Nori Aoki sacrifice fly to tie the game, but retired his final 10 batters from there. The Astros didn't get another hit until Alex Bregman hit a homer in the ninth. And as the Tigers celebrated a 6-3 win, ending their three-game losing streak, they could celebrate the step Norris took.

"It could've been a turning point," Ausmus said. "He could've gone south, or he could re-gather, re-compose himself and continue on. And he obviously did the second."

It's a turning point catcher Alex Avila has seen before from the many other young pitchers he has caught. Max Scherzer went through it. So did Rick Porcello.

Norris finished with one earned run allowed in 6 1/3 innings with five strikeouts.

"I think all young pitchers go through some sort of development stage where they have to figure out their mechanics, figure out what gets them back locked in to be able to repeat their delivery," Avila said. "The thing about Daniel is sometimes he rushes a little bit and his arm lags behind his body and that's when you see a lot of balls sailing up. And he'll try to overcompensate and start pulling everything, and that's when you see balls going down and in really hard into the right-handed batter's box.

"There comes to a point where he's gotta be able, after maybe one pitch or two pitches, figure out how to make an adjustment to get back to where his mechanics need to be. … Max went through it. Ricky went through it. Every young pitcher at some point has to go through it."

Norris knows it. If anything, he might have been too aware of it.

"I felt like from the get-go, I was too concerned with throwing strikes," Norris said. "Same story could be told [last Friday] against the Rangers. The home runs, they're going to happen. But that one inning where I walked a run, it's a whole mental thing where I just start thinking about throwing strikes. I don't want to walk the guy, then I let off and instead of throwing 95 [mph], I throw 91 or 92. And they're cutters and they're not strikes, so it's counterproductive.

"It's just frustrating, but I finally kind of said, 'Screw it.'"

Norris took the mound for the fifth inning looking to stop aiming and start pitching. He not only retired everybody from there, he didn't allow a ball out of the infield.

And when he struck out Bregman on his 97th pitch of the night to end the sixth inning, he cleared a hurdle. He had thrown 100 pitches without finishing the sixth in his previous three outings.

Norris returned for the seventh and used one more pitch, retiring Aoki once more. It was the first time he retired a batter in the seventh since his first start of the season April 9. His seven consecutive starts with 100 pitches or more without an out in the seventh was the longest such streak by a Major League pitcher since Brad Penny in 2009.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.