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Lee's homer puts the Astros on the board

DENVER -- The Astros and Rockies squared off in a back-and-forth game Tuesday night, knotting the score or trading leads eight times before the Rockies dealt the Astros an 8-6 loss.

Houston scored one more run on five fewer hits than it put up in a loss the night before, but in the second game of this three-game set, it was the defense that cost the Astros a chance at evening the series.

"I could have made it a little easier for myself if I'd made some plays on my defensive side," starting pitcher Bud Norris said. "Other than that, they got my pitch count pretty high and it kind of hurt me and the team."

Norris lasted five innings as the Rockies worked him up to a quick 110 pitches. He yielded five runs (four earned) on six hits and four walks while striking out six, but at least two of the runs could have been saved with some sharper defense from the right-hander.

He tried to catch Dexter Fowler going back to second after a comebacker to the mound in the first frame, but slipped and couldn't make a decent throw to enable shortstop Clint Barmes to make a tag. On the next play, Norris tried for a double play on Carlos Gonzalez's grounder to the mound, but pulled Barmes off the bag at second, only getting Gonzalez at first.

"I lost count," Norris said when asked about the third miscue, a grounder to first from Seth Smith that scored a run when Norris covered the bag, but dropped the throw from Carlos Lee.

"With Bud, the two runs in the first inning and the one run in the third inning obviously really hurt," manager Brad Mills said. "Those things really came back to bite us there. He came back and worked through some other things."

After falling behind, 2-0, in the first, the Astros started a comeback in the second when Lee launched his 12th homer of the season. Norris started a rally in the third inning with a one-out double followed by a single to center from Jordan Schafer. Both runners were plated on infield singles from Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez, giving the Astros a short-lived lead.

The Rockies tied it up in the bottom of the frame on two leadoff walks and two errors. They reclaimed a two-run lead two innings later when Norris hit Troy Tulowitzki to lead off the fifth, then watched Seth Smith smack a two-run shot off the upper-deck facade.

"We've been in situations where we've had an opportunity to get a hit here or there, or get an out here, or catch a ball or field a ball here or there," Mills said, lamenting the extra outs the Astros gave the Rockies Tuesday. "It's those things we're working on every day to improve and put us over the top so we start winning games like this. There's going to be times where we struggle to win these games, but at the same time, we want to be able to make those pitches, get that hit, make that play, and win the games."

The two through five hitters in the Astros' lineup continued to rake, with each of them extending hitting streaks to four games or better. Brian Bogusevic rallied Houston in the sixth with a two-out double, and Jimmy Paredes followed with his second homer of the year, a low line drive that rocketed over the right-field scoreboard to tie the game at 5.

"He's a good pitcher," Paredes said of Alex White, who was making his first start for the Rockies since coming over in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. "But in that situation, my mentality is, 'I have had two at-bats, this will be my third at-bat, let me see what he has for me now.' I don't think he threw me any strikes. First base was open.

"I was looking for a changeup. The first pitch, he threw a breaking ball. The second pitch, he threw a changeup."

And when Paredes saw what he was waiting for, he drove it out of the park in a hurry.

The leads continued to come and go with every half-inning, as Gonzalez put the Rockies ahead in the sixth with a single to center, Schafer tied it in the top of the seventh with a drive to left for his second hit of the game, and Jonathan Herrera took it back for good for Colorado with a two-run blast to right off reliever Fernando Rodriguez in the bottom of the inning.

"The type of player I am, I'm not supposed to hit homers," Herrera said of his third homer of the year. "I try to hit the ball and put pressure on the defense. But I put a good swing on that ball inside, and I hit the homer. I was excited to put that ball over the fence."

The only time the Astros put the Rockies down in order was with the heart of the order up in the bottom of the eighth. Southpaw Wesley Wright came in to face the left-handed Gonzalez, then went to right field when David Carpenter came in to face righty Troy Tulowitzki. Wright returned to the mound for the final batter, getting lefty Todd Helton on a called third strike.

"High school in '03 was the last time I was in the outfield when the game was actually going on," Wright said. "It was an interesting one batter for me in right field. It was one of the highlights of my career so far."

The clean inning enabled the Astros to bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but the missed opportunities added up to frustrating loss to put the Astros' road mark at 19-44.

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