Barnes makes history, but Astros fall short
Center fielder first Astros player to hit for cycle since 2006
HOUSTON -- Even an Astro hitting for the cycle couldn't lift struggling right-hander Bud Norris.
The Mariners notched six runs off Norris and scored eight of their ten runs via four homers, all while Houston failed to fully capitalize on Brandon Barnes' historic cycle as Seattle toppled the Astros, 10-7, Friday night in Minute Maid Park.
The loss evened the season series between the teams at 5-5, with the Mariners winning three of the last four. Despite the defeat, Barnes stole the show, going 5-for-5 with two RBIs and two runs scored as he legged out an eighth-inning double to complete the eighth cycle in team history.
"That there's a great feat," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "It's obviously something that doesn't happen in our game every day. To accomplish it in a big league game is pretty impressive and it couldn't happen to a better guy."
But Norris didn't hold up his end of the bargain. With 10 days of rest since being knocked around for seven runs in St. Louis, Norris figured to be refreshed for the first of two straight starts at Minute Maid Park, where he'd allowed only 10 runs in his previous six home starts.
"I honestly felt pretty good since I hadn't been out there for a while, so the body felt good," Norris said. "We had a great game plan and pitches ready with [catcher Jason] Castro. I felt that I was better at times and worse at times but, it wasn't enough."
Entering the game, Norris had a 1.99 home ERA since the start of the 2012 season, second in the Majors among starters over that span.
He cruised through three innings, but trouble found him in the fourth. Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager poked a two-run, opposite-field home run and Dustin Ackley piled on with a two-run double four batters later.
Norris threw 40 pitches in the frame, hit a batter, walked two more and surrendered the two big hits.
"They just made me work, kept fouling off a bunch of pitches and put a couple good swings on me," Norris said.
Meanwhile, the Astros' offense smoked Seattle starter Joe Saunders for nine hits, but also squandered several scoring chances.
Barnes' bid for the cycle started in the power alleys, beginning with a booming second-inning solo homer that put Houston up 1-0. He struck again two innings later, trimming the Mariners lead to 4-2 with a triple that drove in Justin Maxwell.
"Anytime I can drive the ball to the gaps on both sides of the field is when I know I'm where I need to be at the plate," Barnes said.
But Seattle wasn't done with Norris. Norris hurled 120 pitches, but it turns out that may have been one too many.
Despite laboring through the top of the sixth already with well over 100 pitches and dealing with a runner on first, Norris got the green light to pitch to leadoff hitter Brad Miller, who had no homers through the first 16 games of his big league career.
Miller picked a good time for his first career homer, smoking a back-breaking two-run blast into the right-field upper deck that doubled the Mariners' lead to 6-2.
"I tell you what, this guy did not want to come out of the game," Porter said of Norris. "He wanted the ball. I though he left a couple of pitches up in the zone, and give those guys credit, because they took full advantage."
Norris departed after 5 2/3 innings and allowing six runs, two more than he had conceded in 12 previous innings against Seattle this season.
But four walks and a hit-by-pitch helped send his night downhill, with Norris lamenting what he perceived to be an inconsistent and tight strike zone.
"Some calls went my way, some calls didn't, but that's baseball. It was a little frustrating," Norris said. "You never want to necessarily leave the game out of your hands. I kept making pitches, trying to hit corners. I thought I hit on a couple and missed too."
Houston plated another run in the sixth as two walks and a Barnes' single loaded the bases with one out, but Brett Wallace's RBI fielder's choice was all the Astros had to show for it.
The Mariners completed a rough start to the season's second half for Houston with one more clutch hit. After reliever Josh Fields walked the first two batters of the eighth inning, Miller lined a three-run shot just beyond Maxwell's reach in right field to rapidly thin out what had been one of the Astros' best home crowds of the season.
The many fans who stayed got to see that potential become history in the midst of an ill-fated Houston comeback bid.
"I don't think it's anything you talk about, but everyone was aware of the potential for [a cycle] in the dugout," Porter said. "Normally, the triple is the hardest one, so when he was able to get that one, you knew he had a chance."
Barnes kickstarted a three-run eighth, barely beating a tag at second base to cement his place in baseball history and put runners at second and third with no outs. After Matt Dominguez grounded out to drive in Justin Maxwell, Wallace's two-run homer did the rest, giving him five home runs and 16 RBIs in 16 games since returning from Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Jose Altuve's triple during the frame actually meant that Barnes' double also helped the Astros complete a cycle in the frame as a team.
Barnes is the first Houston player to hit for the cycle since Luke Scott did it against the D-backs in 2006.
"It's the top moment [of my career so far]," Barnes said. "I was just thankful to do it in front of my wife. That was an awesome moment."
It was one of the Houston offense's finer moments this season, as the Astros pounded out 16 hits, struck out eight times and drew four walks. But a 4-for-13 effort with runners in scoring position meant Barnes' night didn't translate to much more than an individual triumph.