Houston (72-77) at Washington (62-87)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Washington, DC
Temp: 44° F
  • Game info: 7:05 pm EDT Mon Sep 20, 2010
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Bud Norris(notes) made a strong debut in the Houston Astros’ rotation last season by winning his first three major league starts.

If he can get past the pain of a bruised shin, the right-hander has a chance to match that streak - still his career best - in Monday night’s opener of a four-game series at the Washington Nationals.

Norris (8-8, 4.95 ERA) was called up from Triple-A Round Rock in July 2009, then pressed into a starting role in early August after then-staff ace Roy Oswalt(notes) strained his back. Norris took advantage of the opportunity by allowing two hits over seven scoreless innings in St. Louis, then won his following two starts before splitting six decisions the rest of 2009.

The 25-year-old right-hander opened this season 2-7 with a 6.08 ERA, but has recovered to go 6-1 with a 3.61 ERA over his last 10 outings. While Norris has pitched well lately, he has walked a combined nine batters in his past two starts, including a career high-tying five in Tuesday’s 3-2 victory over Milwaukee. However, he also limited the Brewers to one run and three hits over 7 1-3 innings.

Of greater concern is Norris’ left shin, which was hit with a line drive after his first pitch Tuesday night. A large bruise remains on the leg, which was wrapped in tape from the knee to the ankle Sunday. Norris, however, said he’s OK.

“To see him come back and throw as long as he did and as well as he did was pretty special,” manager Brad Mills(notes) said.

When he makes his first start against Washington, Norris will face a team that has batted .216 and totaled 29 runs over a 2-9 stretch. The Nationals had 11 hits Sunday but fell 7-6 in Philadelphia when Drew Storen(notes) allowed four runs in the bottom of the ninth without retiring a batter.

Washington (62-87), which is opening a 10-game homestand that will conclude its schedule at Nationals Park, has dropped five straight in the nation’s capital.

Livan Hernandez(notes) (10-11, 3.66) will try to snap that slide by building off one of his best performances of the season, a 6-0 win over Atlanta on Tuesday night. The veteran right-hander gave up five hits over eight innings, walked two and struck out six to win for just the second time in his last eight starts. He also hit his 10th career home run and first since 2007.

“I just go out and do my job. I just try to beat somebody whether it’s against a playoff team or not,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez is 10-5 with a 4.23 ERA in 16 career starts against the Astros (72-77).

Houston has dropped eight of its last 11 games in Washington, including a two-game sweep May 4-5, 2009, when the Nationals plated 20 runs.

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Starting Pitchers

B. Norris Bal vs. L. Hernández Mil
9-10 Record 10-12
4.92 ERA 3.66
158 K 114
77 BB 64
1.48 WHIP 1.32

Scoreboard

Monday, Sep 20