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Michaels homers twice in Astros' 6-3 win

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Associated Press
August 8, 2009
— Bud Norris is making his transition to the major leagues look easy.

The 24-year-old rookie struck out seven in six effective innings in his Minute Maid Park debut, Jason Michaels homered twice and the Houston Astros beat the Milwaukee Brewers 6-3 on Friday night.


Norris (2-0) allowed two runs and three hits in his second major-league start. He came up from the minors on July 29, and threw seven shutout innings to win his first start last Sunday in St. Louis.


"Every opportunity I get the ball, I'm going to go out there and give my team the best effort, keep it close and try to get wins," Norris said after throwing 105 pitches.


Michaels hit a solo homer off Carlos Villanueva (2-9) in the fifth and a three-run shot off Mark DiFelice in the sixth. Michaels started in center field in place of Michael Bourn, who sat out for the second straight game to rest a sore groin.


Houston manager Cecil Cooper expects Bourn to be ready to play Saturday, and Michaels is fine with accepting his role as a reserve.


"That's the life of a bench guy," he said. "That's the way it is. I'm just trying to go out and have some good at-bats, play good defense. But it felt nice to contribute."


Jeff Fulchino threw a scoreless eighth and Jose Valverde closed it out for his 14th save.


Jason Kendall hit a two-run homer for the Brewers.


The Astros took a 1-0 lead in the second when Ivan Rodriguez scored on Darin Erstad's double down the first-base line.


Norris struck out at least one batter in all six of his innings. He fanned Felipe Lopez to end the third and Frank Catalanotto to finish the fourth.


"He did terrific," Cooper said of Norris. "Maybe a little bit of command issues, but I can live with that, with that kind of stuff. He pounded the zone really good, attacked the hitters and he did a great job."


J.J. Hardy led off the fifth with a single and Kendall hit his first homer of the season into the left-field porch. Kendall's first home run since Sept. 8, 2008, ended Norris' scoreless streak as a starter at 11 innings.


Norris walked Prince Fielder and Mike Cameron with one out in the sixth, prompting Astros pitching coach Dewey Robinson to come out to the mound. Norris struck out Catalanotto and got Hardy on a groundout to escape.


"It was perfect, just to come out and give me a breather," Norris said of Robinson's quick visit. "He said, 'Hey, just take a quick breath here, make a good pitch and get them out here.'"


Michaels drove the first pitch of the Astros' fifth into the balcony in left center, his second homer of the season. Two outs later, Miguel Tejada hit a solo shot off the brick facade in left, his 10th.


Carlos Lee doubled down the left-field line in the sixth and advanced on Blum's groundout. The right-handed DiFelice relieved Villanueva, got Rodriguez to ground out, then intentionally walked the left-hitting Erstad, a .185 hitter.


Michaels, batting .196, hammered a 3-2 pitch just inside the left-field foul pole for a 6-2 lead. He hit two homers in a game for the second time in his career and the first time since Sept. 3, 2004, when he played for Philadelphia.


DiFelice allowed two runs in his last outing and said he's struggling with his pitching mechanics.


"I'm going through a bad stretch right now," he said. "I'm dropping my arm and everything is flattening out. Hopefully, I'll work it out and it doesn't cost us a game like it did tonight."


The Brewers scored a run in the seventh off Chris Sampson.


NOTES: Astros RHP Roy Oswalt threw 30 pitches in the bullpen before the game and says he'll be ready to start in Florida on Tuesday. Oswalt (6-4, 3.61 ERA) hurt his back early in Houston's 11-6 win in Chicago on July 28. He'll throw another bullpen session on Sunday. ... LHP Wandy Rodriguez (10-6, 2.63 ERA) threw a bullpen session and will start Sunday's series finale. Rodriguez left his Aug. 1 start in St. Louis with a strained right hamstring. ... The Brewers purchased the contract of RHP Jesus Colome from Triple-A Nashville and designated LHP R.J. Swindle for assignment. Colome pitched a scoreless ninth.



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