Norris, Astros cool off Cardinals

Having a no-hitter broken up in the seventh inning always hurts.

Seeing it broken up by a former teammate probably stings a bit worse.

Bud Norris took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and teamed with Mark Melancon hold the St. Louis Cardinals to two hits in the Houston Astros’ 4-1 win Wednesday night.

”I’ve always said this dude has great stuff, great mentality and reminds me a lot of Roger Clemens with his aggressiveness and mound presence,” Berkman said. ”That’s about as high of praise as I can give somebody. I think he’s very good starting pitcher, and he should get only better.”

Norris (4-4) pitched eight innings, allowing only former Astro Lance Berkman’s solo homer with two outs. The blast on the fifth pitch of the at bat sailed just over the glove of Hunter Pence and into the stands in right field. Norris watched the play before pounding his hand in his glove and wiping sweat from his cheek.

The 26-year-old in his second full season in the majors relied on fastballs thrown between 90-95 mph mixed with sliders and changeups to keep the Cardinals off balance.

”We all know Lance,” Norris said. ”He played here for a long time and he’s just such an amazing hitter. I threw the pitch I wanted to throw, definitely in a good spot, but I was behind in the count and … he put a pretty good swing on it.”

Pence was disappointed that he wasn’t able to make the catch on Berkman’s homer.

”I really wish I could have made the play,” he said. ”I just went as hard as I could and tried to get up there and reach for it.”

Melancon yielded a two-out double to Albert Pujols in the ninth before retiring Berkman for his sixth save.

Norris, who entered the game averaging more than a strikeout an inning in his 50 previous major league appearances, struck out two and walked five in a game that tied the longest outing of his career.

”That really helped economize his pitches by staying away from the strikeouts he normally gets,” Houston manager Brad Mills said.

Pence had an RBI triple to extend his career-best hitting streak to a Major League-long 19 games and help snap a four-game skid for the Astros.

Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia (6-2) allowed seven hits and three runs in five innings.

Norris walked the leadoff batter in the first, fourth and fifth innings, but faced the minimum through five thanks to three double plays by Houston’s defense.

”You try not to let it get in your mind and you just have to keep going out there and making pitches, so that was the key,” Norris said of the mounting pressure when he realized he hadn’t allowed a hit. ”They played behind me and gave me some runs so that was a big win for the team.”

He walked Matt Carpenter with one out in the sixth, but got his first strikeout of the game to retire pinch hitter Daniel Descalso before sitting down Ryan Theriot.

Theriot, who saw his career-high 20-game hitting streak ended on Wednesday, said he never felt like he had a pitch over the plate to hit.

”You can tell he’s a gamer out there competing, giving you everything he’s got,” Theriot said of Norris. ”To me, that’s kind of the X-factor. You talk about the guys that are really good and guys that are tough to hit off of. A lot of them are the ones that have that extra tool, that competitiveness.”

Clint Barmes made a diving catch on a ball hit by Jon Jay for the first out of the seventh inning. Norris pumped his fist excitedly after Barmes made the belly-flopping grab. Pujols followed with a long fly out to center field before the homer by Berkman, who played 12 seasons for the Astros before a trade last year.

Berkman, who also homered on Tuesday night, was booed as he rounded the bases on his 14th home run that made it 3-1. Berkman’s 14 homers this season match hit total from last year with Houston and the Yankees.

Norris walked Carpenter with two outs in the eighth inning before he struck out pinch hitter Mark Hamilton.

The speedy Jason Bourgeois, who was making his first start since coming off the disabled list on this weekend, singled in the fifth inning before stealing second base and reaching third on a lineout by Jeff Keppinger. He made it 3-0 by scoring on a single by Jason Michaels.

Keppinger singled with one out in the third inning before scoring on Pence’s triple that landed near the back of Tal’s Hill in center field. Pence came home on a groundout by Carlos Lee to put Houston up 2-0.

The Astros got no-out doubles in the first and second innings, but were unable to string together enough hits to score in those innings.

J.R. Towles doubled before scoring on a single by Michael Bourn to push the lead to 4-1 in the eighth inning.

NOTES: There are now two Rasmus brothers in the Cardinals’ organization after St. Louis drafted Colby Rasmus’s brother, Casey, in the 36th round Wednesday. Casey is a catcher from Liberty University. ”That’s always been what we grew up on was trying making it to the big leagues or play pro ball and he’s going to get that taste now,” Colby said. ”I’m super excited for him.” … Former Houston INF Bill Hall has cleared waivers and is a free agent. He was placed on waivers by the Astros for the purpose of giving him his unconditional release on Friday. … St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said the soonest he expects to use closer Fernando Salas will be Friday after he threw 44 pitches in a two-inning save on Tuesday. … Cardinals OF Allen Craig is listed as day to day after injuring his right knee crashing into a fence while chasing a foul ball on Tuesday night. … Houston activated reliever Brandon Lyon from the disabled list and optioned reliever Jose Valdez to Triple-A Oklahoma City after the game.