HOUSTON -- He's always had the kind of stuff that could dominate a game and make facing him about as uncomfortable as it could get for an opposing lineup. And now Bud Norris is putting up the kind of numbers that could take his career to the next level.
Norris won his third consecutive start by holding the Brewers to four hits and one run while striking out nine in seven innings to help the Astros snap a four-game losing streak with an 8-3 win Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
"I want to keep doing it," said Norris, who improved to 3-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his last three starts. "When I get a cushion like that it makes it easier to throw strikes, because one mistake is not going to kill you."
The cushion was the result of an early 5-0 lead that was reminiscent of the kind of offense the Astros were putting up before they went into a tailspin and lost seven of nine games entering Wednesday. The eight runs they scored in the series opener against the Brewers equaled their total from the previous four games.
"Any time you come out and swing the bat good you always build confidence in the clubhouse when everybody's hitting," Astros left fielder J.D. Martinez said. "I can't say if that's what's going to get us back to where we were, but it's a start."
Carlos Lee continued his torrid pace, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a home run for his fourth consecutive multihit game. Lee is hitting .366 with two homers and nine RBIs in his last 19 games, nine of which have featured two or more hits.
"The whole year, I personally feel like when we go out there we've got a chance," Lee said. "There haven't been many games that we've been out of it. We're playing good baseball and the pitching staff is doing a great job keeping us in games. Early on, we were scoring a lot of runs and couldn't win. I hope it starts to go our way and we'll start winning those 3-2 and 5-4 games."
The Brewers never managed a runner past second base against Norris, other than a leadoff solo homer by Corey Hart in the fourth inning. That snapped Norris' streak of 15 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He struck of five of the six batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings.
"He came in saying he wanted to have a different year this year, and I think the way he's gone about his business and how he's pitched has been along those lines," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "There's no reason to think that's going to change now, as he has good outing after good outing."
Norris (4-1) said he has grown up this year, but was quick to give praise to catcher Jason Castro, pitching coach Doug Brocail and bullpen coach Craig Bjornson for helping him along.
"I guess I'm getting a little older and a little wiser, and it's something I'm going to take into each offseason and make some strides," Norris said. "I've got a lot of people around me helping. Castro's been great and Broke has been great and Bjornson has been helping out. When it comes like that, it's a total team effort and we all have to work together."
Brewers starter Randy Wolf had his five-game winning streak against his former team snapped after allowing seven runs (six earned) and seven hits in four innings.
"They're not a bad-hitting team," Wolf said. "They've got a lot of good, young players. But there's no excuse for me to not execute my pitches."
Lee sparked the Astros in the second inning with a leadoff single and then scored all the way from first base on a double by Jed Lowrie that took a crossways glance off the wall in left field. Justin Maxwell followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
"I'm feeling real good now and kind of found something that keeps me in a good position to hit and see the ball and have some separation," said Lee, who homered in the seventh.
The Astros staked Norris to a 5-0 lead in the third, an inning that began with a Norris single. Lee hit a two-run single to center, and Lowrie followed with a fly ball to right field that Hart dropped as he approached the corner to allow Martinez to score.
"Getting guys on and getting them in brings confidence for everybody," Martinez said. "Hitting's contagious, and Jed came out and squared a ball up right away and everybody said, 'Alright, we're going to get this guy.'"
With an early lead and Norris on the mound, the Astros proved to be a tough matchup.
"It's nice to get that many runs and get out in front, and I thought Bud did a good job taking care of that lead once he got it," Mills said. "So many times we've always talked about shutdown innings and so forth, and Bud was able to do that tonight with that big lead."