Norris pitches five shutout innings for Astros -

Norris pitches five shutout innings for Astros

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KISSIMMEE, Fla (AP) -- Houston Astros manager Brad Mills had no idea Bud Norris' spring stats were ugly. He was busy admiring his starter's mechanics.

Norris threw five scoreless innings in a 3-2 win over a St. Louis Cardinals split-squad on Saturday to stretch the Astros winning streak to four games.

Entering the game with a 10.29 ERA, Norris allowed six hits and struck out five. Norris is being counted on to fill one of the gaps in the Astros' shaky rotation.

"I'm not concerned about his numbers," Mills said. "I don't even know if they are good or not. All I care about is his motion and getting his pitch count up. I don't look at the numbers."

Norris, on the other hand, said he was all too aware that he had been hit hard.

"I was a little bit worried," he said. "I wanted a good day because I had it I the back of my head. It felt good to get the count up and to get batters out. I've got two starts left until we go home and I think I feel better after today."

Norris was 7-3 after July 27 last season, leading the Astros to a 50-41 record down the stretch after a horrible start. He said he knew he was ready for a good outing after his early setbacks.

"Spring training is all about working and that's what I have done," Norris said. "The numbers haven't hurt anything and I haven't had a lot of walks. It's coming around."

Only Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez are locks for the rotation and the team is counting on Norris to fit in. After that, Nelson Figueroa and J.A. Happ are the leading contenders to fill out the rotation, but the Astros need all five to stay competitive in the National League Central.

Norris doesn't have a dominant fastball, but he mixes pitches well and that's what Mills wants to see in the spring instead of great numbers.

"He has some great stuff and he doesn't have to have a strikeout pitch," Mills said. "As long as he gets them out, I don't care how he does it."

Lance Lynn started for the Cardinals and struck out four, allowing two runs in four innings.

The Astros were outhit 11-7, but took a 3-0 lead and held on. First baseman Brett Wallace improved his spring training average to .362 with a run-scoring single.

NOTES: Former Astro Craig Biggio arrived in camp to work with younger players at the minor league complex. Rodriguez missed a start last Tuesday with mild left shoulder tendonitis, but is scheduled to throw in the bullpen on Sunday. If all is well, he will start on Tuesday against Washington. INF Angel Sanchez is battling a sore back and will be re-evaluated on Sunday.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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