HOUSTON (AP) - Bud Norris was great again Tuesday night.
Jeff Karstens was even better
Norris struck out nine in seven crisp innings for Houston, but Jeff Karstens combined with five relievers on a four-hitter in the Pittsburgh Pirates' 1-0 victory over the Astros.
Norris (4-5) kept Houston in the game with another sharp outing in his first start since taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning last week against the Cardinals. He yielded one run on Garrett Jones' RBI single in the second inning and six hits.
``It's 1-0 in the second inning, and you still think you have chances, a lot of opportunities to get back in the game,' Norris said. ``That is what I kept doing - I kept it right there.'
Houston's Hunter Pence went 0 for 4 to snap his career-best 23-game hitting streak, which was the longest current streak in the majors and the second-longest overall this season.
Pence said losing the game was more painful than the end of his surge.
``We have to find way to win series, and tonight I was not able to contribute,' he said. ``I feel like I had good at_bats, they pitched well and ultimately, it is about wins and losses and the streak was fun. It was a great experience, and I hope some of the fans got to enjoy it a little bit.'
Brad Mills raved about Pence.
``(He) has really, really been swinging the bat well,' Mills said. ``Forget the streak, but he is swinging well, and he will stay with that same type of approach. He will keep swinging the bat well and go on from there. That is just how he is. That is why everyone loves him.'
Karstens (4-4) allowed three hits, struck out three and walked none in 6 2-3 innings. The right-hander is 1-0 with a sparkling 0.44 ERA in three starts in June and is working on a scoreless streak of 14 2-3 innings.
``He definitely came at us, attacked us, and he worked fast,' said Houston shortstop Clint Barmes, who went 0 for 4. ``He came right at us. He hit his spots, kept us of balance. He threw the ball very well tonight.'
Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect ninth for his 18th save.
Norris gave former pitching coach Brad Arnsberg a lot of credit for working with him over the last year and a half and making him a better pitcher. Arnsberg was fired earlier Tuesday and former Astros pitcher Doug Brocail became the interim coach.
``Some of us are a little upset, but what needs to be done needs to be done, and that is stuff that we don't control,' Norris said. ``Arnsberg always had our back, and I can't give the guy enough praise for what he taught me.'
Chris Resop and Tony Watson each recorded an out for Pittsburgh before Tim Wood got into trouble in the eighth. Chris Johnson hit a one-out single and pinch-hitter Matt Downs walked before Jose Veras retired Jason Michaels and Michael Bourn to end the inning.
Jeff Keppinger singled with one out in the second for Houston's first hit, but the Pirates turned a double play to end the inning. Brett Wallace reached on a two-out single in the fifth for Houston's next hit, and Karstens responded by retiring six straight.
Neil Walker helped set up the only run. He reached on a leadoff single in the second and moved up on a wild pitch before Jones' hit gave him 20 RBIs on the year.
Jones singled again with one out in the fourth, but was caught stealing. Norris walked Lyle Overbay but got out of the inning by retiring Michael McKenry.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen singled in the sixth to extend his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games. He was shaken up after being hit in the groin with a ball on a slide back to first base after an abandoned steal attempt, but remained in the game.
NOTES: Houston reliever Sergio Escalona has not allowed a run in his last 11 outings. ... Pittsburgh RHP Jose Ascanio cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis.
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