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The Journal Gazette

  • Houston Astros right fielder Brandon Barnes (2) catches a fly ball hit by Oakland Athletics' Shane Peterson next to center fielder Justin Maxwell (44) during the eighth inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 17, 2013. The Athletics won 7-5. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:43 pm

Norris chased in 1st inning, Astros fall to A's

By MICHAEL WAGAMANAssociated Press

Two days after watching Erik Bedard fail to get out of the first inning, Houston manager Bo Porter had another quick hook for pitcher Bud Norris.

So much for giving the Astros' taxed bullpen a break.

Norris threw 46 pitches and gave up six runs before being pulled with two outs in the opening inning, and Houston never recovered in a 7-5 loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.

"He just didn't have it," Porter said of his ace. "The runs didn't bother me. It was the pitch count. I'm not going to let him throw 50-some pitches in one inning."

Bedard retired just one batter and gave up six runs in Monday's 11-2 loss to the A's in the shortest outing of his career.

Norris (2-2) lasted only slightly longer, sticking around to get a second out when leadoff hitter John Jaso grounded out in his second at-bat of the first.

By then the A's had built a 6-1 lead and were on their way to completing a second three-game sweep of the Astros this season.

"I don't know what to say," said Norris, who walked three in the shortest outing of his career. "I felt good but they were finding holes. It wasn't my day."

Bartolo Colon pitched six crisp innings to beat the Astros for the second time this season.

Josh Reddick doubled in two runs during the six-run first, Seth Smith had three hits overall and former Houston infielder Jed Lowrie added two for the A's, who improved to an AL-best 12-4. Oakland outscored Houston 22-10 in the series.

"We were able to draw some walks, get a couple big hits and make (Norris) throw a lot of pitches," Lowrie said. "That's the key to getting into any club's bullpen early."

The A's sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, then won behind Colon (2-0) and three relievers.

Jose Altuve had three hits and Carlos Pena homered for the second straight day for Houston. Pinch-hitter Rick Ankiel also homered for the Astros.

Colon beat Houston for the second time this season.

Chris Carter reached on an RBI grounder in the first, then was picked off by the 39-year-old Colon to end the inning.

Colon retired 15 of the final 17 batters he faced. He gave up four hits, struck out three and only allowed one runner past first base - Altuve, who singled and scored Houston's first run.

Colon, who has not walked a batter in 19 innings this season, lowered his ERA to 3.32.

Oakland led 7-1 before Houston scored three runs in the seventh off reliever Chris Resop. The Astros had the tying run at the plate with two outs but Ryan Cook got Justin Maxwell to strike out looking.

Ankiel homered leading off the ninth against Oakland closer Grant Balfour to cut the lead to 7-5. After Matt Dominguez singled, Marwin Gonzalez reached on a fielder's choice before Balfour got Altuve to ground into a game-ending double play for his third save.

"We have a resilient group and we will continue to battle to the end," Porter said. "I don't believe in moral victories; you either win or lose. But at the same time I liked that we kept fighting."

Altuve remains one of the few bright spots for the Astros.

The second baseman had his third game this season with at least three hits and batted .385 (15-for-39) during the nine-game road trip. He's also reached base in 14 of Houston's first 15 games.

NOTES: Astros bullpen coach Jeff Murphy sustained injuries to his left leg and knee when a protective screen fell on him before the game. Murphy was throwing batting practice when a heavy gust of wind blew the screen over, pinning his leg underneath. According to a team spokesman, Murphy pulled his left hamstring and bruised the knee. ... RHP Lucas Harrell, winless in three starts this season, pitches for Houston on Friday in Cleveland.