Bud Norris Makes The Astros Fun To Watch, For Once

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Color me shocked.

Who in their right mind would have thought the Houston Astros, having the season they're having, would be able to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals?

Especially yesterday with Bud Norris throwing perhaps the best game of his career as the team defeated the Cards 4-1 to win four straight games and improve their record to a NL worst of 13-21.

That's right. Despite the sweep, let's not get too excited. This is still the Astros, and they're still one of the worst teams in baseball. Yet still, wasn't it damn fun to watch the Astros beat up on the St. Louis Cardinals, the so-called class of the NL Central (strike that, despite this sweep, the Cards are still far and away the class of the NL Central, which probably speaks more to how bad the NL Central does than it does to how good the Cards actually are).

The most fun was watching Norris breeze through eight innings of baseball that justified all of the hope and faith the fans put into him last season.

In his appearance yesterday, he threw only 99 pitches and gave up only six hits. He gave up an earned run, and struck out eight while walking absolutely nobody. And in his two starts against the Cards this season, he's gone a total of 13 innings, given up a total of 12 hits, and one run while striking out 17 Cards versus walking just three.

Those are the numbers of someone who owns the Cards, and that mastery of the Cards goes back to last season, when he was able to dominate them as well.

Unfortunately, against just about everybody else, he sucks.

In his other five starts this season, Norris has made it through just 21.1 innings while giving up 22 earned runs on 28 hits. He's managed to strike out 24, but he's walked 17.

So if there was just only a way the Astros could pitch Norris against the Cards, they would be good.

Things are not all fine and dandy for the Astros, however. The offense remains in the dumps -- if not for Cardinals shortstop Brendan Ryan doing his best impersonation of the world's worst shortstop, the Astros would not have scored enough runs to win two of the games. And while Lance Berkman and Hunter Pence are coming to life, they were the ones responsible for all of the RBI yesterday, the offensive fortune of the rest of the team continues to fall into the crapper.

Carlos Lee's average dropped back under .200 to .198. His on-base percentage is a Kazuo Matsui-like .244, and his slugging percentage is a Tommy Manzella-like .286. Michael Bourn's numbers continue to drop faster than Carlos Lee's trade value. Pedro Feliz is continuing in his starring role as free agent bust.

But damn. How about that pitching?

The Astros are going to need the good pitching to continue. They're in San Francisco for the next three games, and it's not easy to forget just how dominating the Giants pitching was when opening the season against the Astros this year.

The Astros will once again have to face off against Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito, and Roy Oswalt will once again have to shut down the Giants while hoping his offense finds a way to score some runs.

The good news is that the Astros just swept the St. Louis Cardinals, and that's always a good thing. A damn good thing. Nobody on the team has demanded a trade this week. Hell, Sports Illustrated doesn't even think the Astros are the worst team in baseball anymore.

Despite that, the Astros are still a bad team. A very bad team. But until then, well done Bud Norris. Well done.

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