Astros' Norris struggling with consistency

Associated Press
Houston Astros' Bud Norris  throws during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Houston Astros' Bud Norris throws during a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Saturday, Sept. …

HOUSTON (AP) — Houston starter Bud Norris continues to struggle with consistency.

After a strong start in his last outing against San Francisco, Norris couldn't make it out of the sixth against the Milwaukee Brewers after giving up a season high-tying six runs.

George Kottaras became the first major league player to hit for the cycle this season and the Brewers beat the Astros 8-2 on Saturday night.

Norris (6-9), who earning a no decision while giving up two runs in seven innings against the Giants last Sunday, struck out five and gave up nine hits in 5 1-3 innings against the Brewers.

"I wasn't tiring," Norris said. "I felt good. I was trying to throw my pitches. I felt fine. I wanted to stay out there as long as I can and pitch deep as far as I can in the game."

Norris was forced to get five outs in the first inning. First, Carlos Lee couldn't catch Jose Altuve's throw to first, allowing Nyjer Morgan to reach. Norris then threw a wild pitch on a strikeout, letting Ryan Braun reach. The Brewers ended up getting a run in the inning when Prince Fielder grounded to shortstop, driving in Morgan.

Norris said the first inning was tough, but he was trying to make his pitches and get through the inning.

"Any time you give a team like this five outs they will take advantage, and they did," Houston manager Brad Mills said.

Norris, who threw 120 pitches, has only made it out of sixth twice in his last six starts, partially because of pitch counts going over 100.

"He's had some games he's gone into the eighth inning before getting at 100 pitches," Mills said. "He's been able to deal with it. Tonight he wasn't. They were able to go deep in the count with him and take some questionable pitches and working really well."

Norris was able to get through the second and third rather easily, but Kottaras hit a solo homer in the fourth inning off him to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.

The Brewers added two more in the fifth on an RBI single by Fielder and an RBI double by Mark Kotsay.

Carlos Lee extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a two-run homer for Houston in the fifth.

"I'm feeling good and seeing the ball really good and taking it one game at a time," Lee said. "I got a fastball that came back middle in. I hit it good."

After Kotteras tripled to lead off the sixth, Craig Counsell hit a two-run home run to up the lead to 6-2. Two batters later, Norris' night was over.

"I don't think he was tiring," Mills said. "He looked strong and was throwing the ball well. In that sixth inning, they were able to get the two runs on the board. He looked strong. He was telling (pitching coach Doug Brocail) that he felt fine, so there was no worry."

Kottaras added an RBI single in the seventh and doubled to deep center field off David Carpenter in the ninth for the first cycle by a Brewers hitter since Jody Gerut on May 8, 2010.

Colorado slugger Carlos Gonzalez was the last major leaguer to hit for the cycle, on July 31 last season against the Chicago Cubs.

According to STATS LLC, two of the last three big league catchers to hit for the cycle did it for Milwaukee: Kottaras and Chad Moeller (2004). Bengie Molina also accomplished the feat for Texas on July 16 last year.

Kottaras finished 4 for 5 with two RBIs and scored twice. Fielder drove in two runs with a grounder and a single.

"That team is in first place," Lee said of the Brewers. "They can hit. They can do a lot of things right. It isn't easy. The last two games have been tough."

Chris Narveson (10-6) allowed two runs and four hits over five innings in his first start for the Brewers since Aug. 22. He walked four and struck out four, working out of jams in the second and third.

NOTES: Lee has three of his team-high 14 homers this season off Narveson. ... Norris made his career-high 28th start. He already set personal bests for strikeouts and innings pitched. ... Houston lost its 92nd game and moved closer to its first 100-loss season.

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