The names and numbers continue to change. Players come and go. Bud Norris keeps taking the mound at Minute Maid Park. Owning it. Delivering. Embracing the honor of being a No. 1 starter in Major League Baseball and throwing as if every pitch, every count and every game matter.

The 28-year-old righthander approached his career best Wednesday night. Through five innings, Norris was at just 38 pitches. By the eighth, he was at 65. Norris finished when he hit 84 (58 strikes), coming within three outs of his first complete game and dominating the Los Angeles Angels during a 3-1 victory in an American League West matchup before an announced crowd of 12,906.

“Bud has taken a tremendous step forward in his career,” said Astros manager Bo Porter, who would have let Norris close the game had only one runner reached base in the ninth inning.

“He’s our opening-day starter. He’s our No. 1 guy. And there have been times when the bullpen has been taxed and he’s been asked to go out there and be that No. 1 guy. (Wednesday) is another example of him taking the bull by the horns and saying, ‘I’m going to put this team on my back and do everything I can to get us to victory.’ ”

Three Angels covered Minute Maid’s diamond in the ninth after Mike Trout and Albert Pujols led off with singles and then Astros closer Jose Veras hit Josh Hamilton to load the bases with one out.

But Howie Kendrick’s game-ending double play — the Astros’ fourth of the game — kept the Angels (11-22) spiraling downward, though. A 10-24 Astros club that three days ago was at its lowest point of the season is now just 1 1/2 games behind one of baseball’s biggest early-season disappointments.

“That’s the beauty of baseball,” Porter said. “And that’s why it takes a special mentality to play this game.”

Norris has been forced to form his own special mental approach just to stay focused on his weekly mound outings and long-term career while the Astros constantly tear down and slowly rebuild around him.

While the righty relied on his sinker to set up the Angels, then used his slider and fastball to pitch to contact — 10 groundouts, five fly outs — the ever-changing Astros were still adjusting to a reconfigured lineup that featured two new young, aggressive outfielders.

“We’ve seen a lot of moves,” Norris said. “They’re going to play their mix-and-match game all year.”