CINCINNATI -- Astros pitcher Bud Norris figures to be a big part of the team's future, so when he told manager Brad Mills he felt his shoulder grab him while he threw a pitch in the third inning Tuesday night, his night -- and perhaps his season -- was over.
Norris was forced to leave the Astros' 6-4 loss to the Reds after only 2 2/3 innings because of discomfort in his right shoulder, putting his final start of the season -- scheduled for Sunday against the Rockies at Minute Maid Park -- in jeopardy.
"When he was out there, it was stressful," Mills said. "We'll look at it more [Wednesday] and go from there. He said it grabbed on him and that's all I needed to hear."
The Astros certainly have no reason to push Norris, who has thrown a career-high 186 innings this year and fell to 6-11 after allowing seven hits and three runs in his brief stint on the mound at Great American Ball Park. Norris has one win in his last 13 starts.
"Of course, I want to be out there competing and playing," Norris said. "I'd love to make all 32 starts and that's something we need to think about. If it were a pennant race, absolutely. But I don't know what their decision is going to be. I'll know more [Wednesday]."
The Astros are indeed not in a pennant race, extending their club record with their 101st loss in their second-to-last road game of the season.
Rookie left fielder J.D. Martinez went 3-for-5 and socked his first home run in a month -- a two-run blast in the third inning -- and Chris Johnson came off the bench hit a tape-measure two-run, pinch-hit homer to left field in the eighth that cut the Reds' lead to 5-4.
Reds starter Homer Bailey improved to 4-0 in four starts against the Astros this year, holding them six hits and two runs while striking out five batters in seven innings. He even went 3-for-3 at the plate against three different Astros pitchers.
"I had a good night," Bailey said. "That team really put up some good at-bats. You could tell they're definitely improving the way their offense and defense was tonight. They should win a lot of games like that."
Mills went through six relievers once Norris left, with Lucas Harrell being summoned off the bench to warm up in a hurry in the third. He went 1 1/3 innings and in the fourth inning gave up a two-run single to Jay Bruce, who broke his 0-for-16 slump.
Reds slugger Joey Votto broke an 0-for-14 slump with an eighth-inning single, and Brandon Phillips hit a long homer in the eighth to give Cincinnati some ninth-inning wiggle room.
"When you play against them, you have to stay hungry and try to go out there and do your job," Phillips said.
Norris gave up five hits, one walk and three runs in the second inning, including a two-run homer to Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco. He escaped further damage when he got Votto to hit into a double play with the bases loaded to end the inning.
After Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer made a terrific diving catch to start the third, Norris allowed the next two batters to reach via a hit and a walk. He struck out Mesoraco swinging, but took himself out of the game because of the worry about his shoulder.
"Little tired, little sore," Norris said. "The last couple [of starts] of have been a little shaky for me, but I just felt it on that one pitch tonight where I overextended it and felt that shoulder grab real quick. A little frightening, but at the same time I'm not too worried about."
Johnson walloped his first home run since June 2 with a two-run, pinch-hit shot in the eighth that traveled an estimated 432 feet and cut the Reds' lead to 5-4. The homer capped an 11-pitch at-bat in which Johnson fouled off six pitches.
"It's tough to pinch hit," he said. "I went up there and wasn't going to let him beat me. That was my goal. I put a good swing on a pretty good pitch and I got the barrel to it and it went out. The second I hit it I knew it was going to stay fair. It was nice. It got us closer."
Astros catcher Humberto Quintero made a heads-up play to end the sixth and showed off his strong arm. Bruce singled with two outs to load the bases, and after Quintero blocked the relay throw to the plate, he threw behind Bailey when he strayed off third and picked him off for the final out.