Norris battles through illness, but defense hurts him

Norris battles through illness, but defense hurts him

Norris battles through illness, but defense hurts him

SEATTLE -- For the second straight night, the Astros needed to be flawless to overcome a dominant performance by a Seattle pitcher. And for the second straight night Tuesday, Houston was its own worst enemy, falling behind early due to its own miscues in a 4-0 loss at Safeco Field.

Houston's hitters never did figure out Aaron Harang, who fanned 10 batters, allowing only two hits in a shutout. The loss drops the Astros to 22-44.

"I was able to locate the fastball early in the count and get ahead," Harang said. "They're an aggressive young team, so they're up there swinging, and they got me some early outs, as well."

Bud Norris battled through cold-like symptoms to record his fifth consecutive quality start. Over that stretch he has a 1-2 record, getting little reward for delivering consistent performances.

"Bud Norris has been nails, outstanding the whole year," manager Bo Porter said. "You look at the fact that he had to get sent home yesterday with cold-like symptoms and he was taking medication from the trainers. To show back up here today and give us the kind of performance he gave us, it's outstanding."

Endy Chavez led off for the Mariners with a double and sprinted to third when shortstop Ronny Cedeno bobbled the throw from outfielder Trevor Crowe. Cedeno was charged with the error, and Chavez scored the game's first run on a wild pitch by Norris.

Almost the exact same play occurred to start the second, when Nick Franklin hit a double to deep center and sprinted to third when Crowe's throw fell drastically short of the cutoff men. Franklin scored on a Michael Saunders sacrifice fly to left field, and Houston found itself in a 2-0 hole.

"I thought I had a play," Crowe said. "[Jose] Altuve and Ronny did everything they could, it just took a bad hop. They were trying to get in front of it. The second one, that's the one that you got to take your time and make a good throw because he's not going anywhere. The first one I had a chance, the second one, you just got to slow down and make a better throw on it."

One night earlier, Houston lost, 3-2, thanks in large part to three errors, and it was apparent from the start of Tuesday's game that the sloppy play would continue. The Astros committed two errors, and left three runners stranded on base.

Houston's infield defense is typically regarded as one of the team's strengths, but it has been the team's Achilles' heel this series against Seattle.

"It's very unfortunate," Crowe said. "Because the way Bud was pitching tonight, you wonder how things would've gone had they not right off the bat had a runner at third, nobody out, pressure situation five pitches into the game."

The 28-year-old Norris entered the game with a 1.73 ERA over his past four starts, delivering quality starts in seven of his last eight outings. But the under-the-weather Norris couldn't keep up with Harang's stellar night.

"We've gone through a slump before, but this one's really kind of getting to us," Norris said. "The guys are going out and playing hard, and that's not the problem, but they're not going to lay over for us either. We need to keep picking up both sides of the ball and playing as a unit."

Harang never allowed a runner to reach second base. The 35-year old has won his last six starts against the Astros dating back to 2009, when he was with the Reds and both were in the National League Central. He also snapped Altuve's 11-game hitting streak.

Seattle got a third run off Norris in the sixth, when left fielder Raul Ibanez smacked a solo shot to left center. The Mariners added a fourth off reliever Wesley Wright on Kyle Seager's eighth-inning single to score Chavez.

The Astros looked a long ways removed from the club that took two of three in Seattle while outscoring the Mariners, 24-15, in early April. Chris Carter, who hit three home runs and went 8-for-15 in that series, has yet to record a hit against the Mariners this time around.

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