DETROIT -- The return of Daniel Norris from a lengthy stay on the disabled list took a step back Wednesday afternoon when the Astros unraveled the left-hander for four runs in the fifth inning en route to a 5-4 Tigers loss at Comerica Park.Norris navigated the Astros' lineup through four
DETROIT -- The return of Daniel Norris from a lengthy stay on the disabled list took a step back Wednesday afternoon when the Astros unraveled the left-hander for four runs in the fifth inning en route to a 5-4 Tigers loss at Comerica Park.
Norris navigated the Astros' lineup through four scoreless innings. His best work came in the third, when he loaded the bases with two outs and got Carlos Correa to fly out to right field to end the frame. But Norris wasn't able to finish the fifth, giving up four hits, including two doubles, in a four-run inning.
"I just feel like I ran out of gas around the third inning," Norris said. "You can feel it in your legs. They're getting heavy. I mean, heck, I just have to be patient. That's part of it."
Norris got a boost from left fielder Christin Stewart, who made his third start since being called up on Sunday. Stewart made a running grab in the second inning despite colliding with shortstop Niko Goodrum, who exited the game with a right quad contusion. In the pivotal fifth inning, Stewart robbed Yuli Gurriel of a home run, preventing further damage. Stewart also recorded his first extra-base hit, a double off Astros starter Gerrit Cole in the first.
"He's comfortable right now, and he's getting more comfortable," manager Ron Gardenhire said of Stewart. "... I really like what I see out of the young man. He's a good athlete and a great kid."
Wednesday's outing was Norris' third since being activated on Sept. 1 following four months on the DL with a left groin strain. It was also his first real setback on the mound after giving up five runs over his first two starts back. Norris said every starting pitcher hits the proverbial wall at some point and has to find a way through it, but he's also trying to build up the endurance in his arm. Eventually, the fatigue sets in.
"That's when you have to grit your teeth and grind through it," Norris said. "The effort is there. It's just sometimes your body doesn't let you."
The Tigers were leading, 2-1, going into the fifth inning, thanks to an RBI single by Michael Mahtook and a solo home run by James McCann, who hadn't hit a homer since Aug. 16 against the Twins. Nicholas Castellanos got Detroit within striking distance with two outs in the seventh inning by hitting his 21st home run of the season, a two-run shot to left field.
At this point in his recovery, Norris knows his body is going to betray him. Unfortunately for the Tigers, it came soon after they gained their lead.
"I haven't felt like myself in the calendar year," Norris said. "I don't have an extra gear right now where I can rear back to get out of trouble. So I'm having to find ways. Today I just ran out of ways to get people out."
The Tigers traded for Norris, a prized prospect, three years ago when they sent David Price to the Blue Jays, but injuries have sidelined him for large chunks of his career in Detroit. Norris has dealt with oblique and back injuries since 2015, and last year the same left groin injury had him on the disabled list for almost two months.
"I like his stuff," Gardenhire said. "I think he just needs to pitch more right now. He just needs more innings under his belt and [to] get comfortable and he'll be fine. He's going to be in the mix for this ballclub."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
With two outs in the fourth inning, Martin Maldonado hit a deep fly ball to left-center field. Rookie Victor Reyes topped out at 29.6 feet/second as he covered 95 feet in five seconds to make a diving catch. The ball had a 41 percent catch probability, according to Statcast™, good for a four-star grab.
Sandy Baez took over for Norris and threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings. It was the fourth Major League appearance for Baez, who has pitched at least two innings of relief in three of those games. He remains unscored upon in his career.
HE SAID IT
"You show up to win. When you lose, it's frustrating. But with that being said, there's a lot of bright spots to take away. You play the defending champions in three one-run ball games -- we're swing of the bat away, or one ball bouncing a different way, from us being up by one. That's baseball." -- McCann
After an off-day Thursday, the Tigers head to Cleveland for a three-game series against the Indians, beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday. Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.11 ERA) will get the start for Detroit. Boyd threw seven innings of one-run ball in his last start against the Cardinals. The Indians will go with Josh Tomlin (1-5, 6.63 ERA), whose last start came on May 15.
Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.