Norris sharp early, but can't keep Braves down

Norris sharp early, but can't keep Braves down

Norris sharp early, but can't keep Braves down
ATLANTA -- For five innings Sunday, Bud Norris battled through the Braves' lineup. They put at least one runner on base in each inning and made him work, driving up his pitch count, but Norris withstood the pressure.

One too many times, however, Norris attempted to escape from a jam Sunday afternoon. The score tied at 1 and the bases loaded with two outs in the sixth, Norris unleashed a wild pitch allowing Chipper Jones to score from third base. Four pitches later, Paul Janish slapped a ground ball up the middle to bring home two more runs.

The Braves added an insurance run in the seventh and eighth and beat the Astros, 6-1, taking two out of three games in the series. With the loss, the Astros finished their six-game road trip at 1-5.

The Astros had just tied the game in the top of the sixth when catcher Carlos Corporan said "the game got kind of crazy." Norris got Jason Heyward to ground out to start the bottom of the sixth. Jones and Freddie Freeman followed with singles and backup catcher David Ross loaded the bases with a two-out infield single in the hole between shortstop Marwin Gonzalez and third baseman Matt Downs.

"It was in the wrong spot," manager Brad Mills said. "Downs couldn't quite get there and little bit too far for Gonzy to get there and get to second."

That brought Paul Janish, hitting .197 entering Sunday, to the plate. On the second pitch, Norris threw a fastball past Corporan to the screen behind home plate.

"That one just slipped out of my hand," Norris said.

Janish then added a two-run single, breaking the game open for the Braves.

After watching his team be unable to come up with a two-out hit of their own in the sixth, Mills said Janish's single was a bigger blow than the wild pitch.

"It was a two-out hit that they were able to get and we just weren't able to get that, and that's why the sixth inning was so big," he said.

In the top of the inning, the Astros pieced together a rally against Kris Medlen. Houston chased the right-hander with back-to-back singles from Marwin Gonzalez and Brett Wallace. Building on his heroics from Saturday night, Justin Maxwell drove in the Astros' lone run with a double off reliever Cory Gearrin.

But with runners on second and third and only one out, the Astros weren't able to do further damage. Left-hander Jonny Venters relieved Gearrin and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Downs and, after an intentional walk to load the bases, got pinch-hitter J.D. Martinez to ground out, ending the inning.

"We tied it in the sixth, had runners at second and third, couldn't get them in and the bases loaded and couldn't get them in," Mills said. "But I thought the guys did a good job of getting back to tied, making some adjustments at the plate."

Wallace and Maxwell each went 2-for-4 and Jose Altuve stole his 20th base. He is the 12th player in the National League to steal 20 bases and is second on the club behind Jordan Schafer's 26.

Houston's offense had scuffled for five innings against Medlen, who was making his second start since transitioning from the bullpen to the rotation. For five innings, Medlen avoided any real trouble, scattering three hits and two walks.

Norris, however, had matched him almost pitch for pitch. After surrendering an opposite-field solo home run to backup catcher David Ross in the second, Norris did not allow another Brave to reach second base until the sixth.

Norris gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings and added seven strikeouts.

Corporan said Norris pitched well, only to be sunk by a bad-luck sixth inning.

"He did fine," Corporan said. "He was hitting my glove most of the time, executing pitches. Just one inning.

"He threw the ball very well."

Norris entered the game having thrown back-to-back quality starts. On Sunday, he was on his way to another until the sixth got away from him. But Norris said his latest loss was little different from the rest.

"I feel like I haven't been getting out of jams all year," he said. "It's been a rough one for me, unfortunately. I haven't caught that many breaks this year."

Teddy Cahill is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.