Norris once again looked a little too much like Tom Seaver for St. Louis' tastes, holding the Cardinals down over five innings in the Astros' 5-1 win at Busch Stadium on Thursday. It was Houston's first win of the season.
Norris has been consistently outstanding vs. the Cardinals, allowing only one unearned run in three career starts covering 18 innings against them. On Thursday, he wasn't very efficient, needing 106 pitches for 15 outs, but he struck out a career-high nine and held the Cardinals to four hits. Chris Sampson, Brandon Lyon and Matt Lindstrom followed up with shutout ball.
"He's got a power arm," said Ryan Ludwick, who went 1-for-4. "He was running that slider anywhere from 86 to 90 [mph], and he was running the heater. I think he hit 95 a couple times. He's got a power arm."
The second-year right-hander also got a little help from home-plate umpire Gary Darling, some in the clubhouse felt. Ludwick jawed at Darling over a called third strike that a video replay appeared to show was well outside, though he called the matter "water under the bridge" after the game. Colby Rasmus was also rung up on a pitch that on a replay looked to be several inches off the plate.
Kyle Lohse turned in yet another excellent start for the Cardinals' rotation, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings, but he was the losing pitcher. It was the first time in 2010 that a Cards starter has been charged with a defeat. Lohse struck out one and made it back-to-back days that a St. Louis starter didn't walk a batter.
"As the game went on, I got my sinker working down in the zone and everything breaking off that," Lohse said. "I felt like I was cruising along there."
Mitchell Boggs had a rough eighth, allowing three runs on four hits to put the game out of reach. Boggs retired two of the first three batters before he allowed Michael Bourn to double down the line. Jeff Keppinger added a two-run double, and Pedro Feliz drove in the fifth run to cement the defeat.
"His stuff was good," manager Tony La Russa said. "Location, that's exactly how you would define it. He missed his location three times, they got three hits, it's three runs."
David Freese had an RBI single in the fourth for the only St. Louis run. The Cards missed out on a chance an inning earlier, though. After Lohse doubled, Ludwick singled to center field and Bourn bobbled the ball. But Lohse was still not able to score on the play, despite running with two outs and the slip-up in the outfield.
"Just a bad read, bad jump," Lohse said. "I should have been able to probably score on that one. I know Bourn doesn't have best arm. I knew there were two [outs]. ... It would have helped out there."
After those two chances, the Cardinals went quietly. And it wasn't just Norris. The Houston bullpen kept St. Louis down just as well. Sampson breezed through two perfect innings, while Lyon put down the heart of the order in the eighth. Lindstrom finished the game off as the Cardinals went with scarcely a whimper over the final five innings. Albert Pujols doubled in the fifth and the eighth, but other than that, the Cardinals had only one other baserunner after the fourth.
Pujols struck out in his first two at-bats against Norris, giving a good indication of what the righty was working with.
"If you go back and look at what Bud did to Pujols, that says enough," Keppinger said. "I've never seen that guy take swings like that off of anybody. So either he was having an off day or Bud's stuff was really good today -- and I'm going to go with Bud's stuff [being] really good."
It was a shame for Lohse, who surely deserved better. After a somewhat pedestrian 2010 debut, he turned in a fine effort. Lohse got in trouble against some hitters who shouldn't have given him trouble in a two-run third, but he was otherwise rock solid.
Chris Johnson led off the third with a single, and after Humberto Quintero's swinging bunt advanced him, Norris poked an RBI single to left field. Bourn grounded into a force out, giving Lohse a chance to get out of the inning with only one run. But Keppinger doubled to stretch the lead.
The Cardinals fell to 6-3 on the year. In each of their first three series this season, they have won the first two games before dropping the finale.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.