HOUSTON (AP) - The Milwaukee Brewers couldn't hit Bud Norris' slider, which helped keep them off the scoreboard for the first time this season.
Norris combined with three relievers on a three-hitter, and Carlos Lee hit a three-run homer before being taken to the hospital to have tests on his injured ribcage in the Houston Astros' 5-0 victory Sunday.
``That is a pretty good slider,' said Rickie Weeks, who went 0 for 4. ``He threw it pretty much in all counts and kept us off balance. The next time we face him, we are going to have to be ready.'
Jeff Fulchino, Fernando Abad and Mark Melancon combined for 1 1-3 hitless innings after Norris (2-1) left after 7 2-3 innings to hand Milwaukee its first shutout loss since Sept. 24 against Florida.
It is the second consecutive game Milwaukee's offense has scuffled against the Astros after Wandy Rodriguez threw eight shutout innings in a 2-1 Houston win Saturday night.
``Hopefully we won't have too many of these stretches where were not scoring,' Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. ``But these were some well-pitched games.'
Lee's home run, off Brewers starter Chris Narveson (1-2), came in the sixth and pushed Houston's lead to 4-0. That was the last at-bat of the day for Lee, who was injured in the seventh inning when teammate Angel Sanchez slid knee first into his ribs while the pair were going for Mark Kotsay's pop-fly double.
Lee was taken to the hospital for tests on the left side of his ribcage and was to spend Sunday night in the hospital. A chest X-ray did not reveal any rib fractures, but Lee was still scheduled to undergo a CT scan Sunday.
Norris struck out a season-high 11, allowed three hits and walked three in his longest outing of the season. He improved to 3-0 in five career starts against Milwaukee.
Norris didn't allow a hit until Jonathan Lucroy singled to lead off the third inning. He sailed through that inning until there was one out in the seventh, retiring 13 straight, with five strikeouts.
``I don't know how many sliders he threw, but with the way it was working and he kept it down in the zone, there are not too many right-handed lineups that are going to get to it,' Roenicke said.
Milwaukee's next hit came when Prince Fielder singled a ball right at Norris that bounced off his upper arm and to third baseman Matt Downs. Trainers checked on Norris after he was hit, but he remained in the game after throwing a couple of warmup pitches.
Norris then struck out Casey McGehee before Kotsay's double that led to Lee's injury. He escaped the jam by retiring Yuniesky Betancourt for the third out.
``A couple of times, he got us thinking slider so much that all the sudden he sticks a fastball on the outside corner, and that is where he gets the strikeout looking,' Roenicke said.
Norris walked Lucroy to open the eighth inning before he was chased after walking Carlos Gomez with two outs. Norris appeared to be upset he was taken out, but exited to a standing ovation and was replaced by Fulchino.
Matt Downs reached on an error by McGehee before scoring on Jason Bourgeois' two-out single that made it 5-0 in the seventh. Bourgeois advanced to second on that play when reliever Sergio Mitre overthrew first base for an error. Sanchez grounded out to end that inning.
Bill Hall hit Houston's third consecutive single with no outs in the second inning to drive in a run and give Houston a 1-0 lead. Lee and Brett Wallace both singled to set up Hall's RBI, with Wallace extending his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games.
Humberto Quintero singled after the Brewers turned a double play, but Norris struck out to end the inning.
Narveson settled down after the second, facing the minimum in the third, fourth and fifth innings. He didn't allow another hit until Bourgeois singled with no outs in the sixth inning. Pence singled after that to set up Lee's shot.
``Sometimes it is the right pitch, wrong location. Sometimes it's the wrong pitch and the wrong location, and today I think it was the latter,' Narveson said. ``You know those are mistakes that cost us the game today, but hopefully you learn from them and adjust the next time out.'
Narveson yielded seven hits and four runs with seven strikeouts in six innings. He fell to 0-2 in his career against the Astros and lost for the first time at Minute Maid Park. Last year, Narveson went 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA against Houston.
After starting the season with a 14-inning scoreless streak against Atlanta and the Chicago Cubs, Narveson has allowed at least three earned runs in each of his last four starts.
Notes: Roenicke said OF Nyjer Morgan (right thigh bruise) will be activated from the disabled list Tuesday. ... Milwaukee LF Ryan Braun walked in the first inning and has reached base safely in each of the team's first 27 games, extending a franchise record to start a season.
The Associated Press News Service
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