Chris Carpenter (0-0, 3.60) vs Bud Norris (5-13, 5.05)
The story angle on tonight's game was obvious going in, but it cannot be ignored: Final game of 2012 in Houston. Final National League home game at Minute Maid Park. Final game as NL Central rivals against long-time archenemy St. Louis. And Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton's final regular radio broadcast ever. As hard to watch and forgettable as the last two seasons have often been, at least for one more night, it felt like old times again. Bud Norris spun a sparkling gem, Jose Altuve went deep, and the Astros triumph in an old-fashioned 'Dome-style pitcher's duel, 2-0. The win sends Houston on the road for their final six National League games at 51-105.
*Once upon a time, there was a pitcher named Bud Norris. Bud was 4-0 in May with a 0.35 ERA and on the brink of being NL Pitcher of the Month, when a bad start happened. Then a worse one followed. Then, before we knew it, he had gone 0-12 with a 6.14 ERA since. All of that fell by the wayside, and Bud was in rare form tonight. BudChuck's Line of Cardinal Dominance: 7.1 IP / 2 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 7 K. Wilton Lopez came on to help Bud out of the only jam he ever really faced, and he surrendered only a single while facing the minimum over the final 1.2. Bud finally got that long-awaited sixth win, and Lopez scored his eighth save.
*The Astros couldn't mount much offense against old foe Chris Carpenter, either, but it's that much sweeter to hand him the loss this way in their final showdown, as in the Oswalt/Clemens/Pettitte glory days.
*Houston was hitless through three, but Jose Altuve put an end to that on the first pitch of the 4th, blasting one onto the concourse behind the Crawford Boxes for his sixth home run of the season, and his first since June 23. The Altuve finished 1 for 4.
*Brett Wallace got the Astros on the board again with a RBI single four batters after Altuve in the 4th. He ended up 1 for 3.
*Justin Maxwell went 0 for 3, but reached on a fielder's choice, stole second, then scored on Wallace's single.
*Scott Moore went 1 for 4 with a double and 2 K, getting thrown out at home on the fielder's choice that let Maxwell on base.
*Fernando Martinez went 1 for 1 with a HBP in his only other plate appearance, and Brandon Barnes singled in his only at bat, pinch-hitting for Martinez in the 7th.
BudChuck was perfect through three and only allowed one Cardinal to reach third base through the first seven, so the 2-0 lead he'd been given in the 4th looked solid. Trouble began to threaten in the 8th, however, when Bud hit Adron Chambers leading off, then a fielding error by Brett Wallace let Daniel Descalso reach safely, giving St. Louis the tying runs on base with no outs. Bud got a huge strikeout of Pete Kozma, then gave way to Wilton Lopez to face old ex- Carlos Beltran. But Lopez battled Beltran to a groundout to second, then got John Jay to ground to short to complete the escape.
Man of the Match:
Bud Norris. Studly Cudly Budly was all over it tonight.
In Milo's words: Astros win! Astros win again!