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Astros Inches Away From First No-No Since 2003

That small distance is all that stood between Houston starter Bud Norris and the Astros’ first no-hitter since 2003. Instead, he had to settle for allowing one hit, a solo home run by ex-Astro Lance Berkman with two outs in the seventh, in a 4-1 victory over the Cardinals at Minute Maid Park.

Berkman drove a down-and-in pitch just out of the reach of a leaping Hunter Pence in right, falling in the first row of the seats, breaking up Norris’ run at history. Houston’s last no-hitter was accomplished by Roy Oswalt and five others against the Yankees, but this was shaping up to be a solo act.

Norris had walked five, but held the Cardinals at bay, and it appeared it might be his night when Clint Barmes dove to his right and snagged Jon Jay’s liner destined for left field leading off the seventh. After retiring Albert Pujols, Berkman stepped in and deposited a Norris mistake in the seats, adding to his mastery of Houston pitching at Minute Maid Park this season. He is 10- for-20 with four home runs and 10 runs batted in over five games at his former park this season.

Norris (4-4) struck out just two over his eight frames of work and was backed up by an RBI from Carlos Lee and Jason Michaels. Pence pushed his career-high hitting streak to 19 games as well for Houston, which snapped a four-game losing streak. Mark Melancon worked the ninth for his sixth save.

Jaime Garcia (6-2) threw a lot of pitches in the loss, falling just short of 100 in five innings while surrendering three runs on seven hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout. The Cardinals saw their four-game winning streak come to an end.

The Astros scored a pair of runs in the third as Jeff Keppinger singled to center with one out and round the rest of the bases when Pence hit a moon shot that went up the hill in dead center field for a triple. Lee’s groundout plated him for the two-run cushion.

In the fifth, Jason Bouregeois singled, stole second and scored on Jason Michaels single to left. Michael Bourn pinch hit in the eighth, driving in an insurance tally with a single to center.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.