The Houston Astros are likely heading toward back-to-back sub-.500 seasons for the first time in nearly 20 years.
Norris tries to win his fourth straight start and help the Astros continue their dominance over the 100-loss Pirates on Saturday night at PNC Park.
Houston (74-80) needs to win seven of its final eight games to avoid finishing with consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1990 and ’91. The franchise has had only had three sub-.500 seasons since.
The Pirates (53-100) have been on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Pittsburgh is in the midst of a record 18th straight losing season and secured its first 100-loss year since 2001 with a 10-7 defeat to the Astros on Friday.
“It’s abysmal,” Pirates manager John Russell said of his team’s record. “I can’t sugarcoat is. It is what it is - and it’s awful.”
Like most teams, Houston has regularly frustrated Pittsburgh this year, going 11-2 in the season series.
The Astros have enjoyed an even greater winning percentage, however, with Norris on the mound, winning 10 of his last 11 starts.
Norris (9-8, 4.85 ERA) has posted a 1.80 ERA in winning his last three starts and has yielded two runs or fewer in six of his last eight outings. This stretch started against the Pirates on Aug. 14, when he allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings of a 3-2 win.
Against Washington on Monday, the right-hander gave up two runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings of an 8-2 victory.
Although Norris has been pitching well lately, one of his worst starts came at Pittsburgh on July 17, when he allowed seven runs - four earned - and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings of a 12-6 loss.
Hunter Pence(notes) had three hits and three RBIs Friday, and has been instrumental in Houston’s success against the Pirates this year. He’s batting .478 with three homers, seven doubles and 12 RBIs against Pittsburgh and is 4 for 11 lifetime against scheduled starter Zach Duke(notes) (7-14, 5.68).
Duke surrendered three runs and six hits in a season-high 7 1-3 innings in Sunday’s 4-3 win over Arizona, but didn’t get a decision. It was an encouraging performance for the left-hander after recording an 11.66 ERA in his previous four outings.
“I’ve had a couple bad starts before,” Duke said. “There’s a mental battle all the time, that’s part of the job, so I’m prepared to deal with it. It’s nothing new.”
Duke pitched well in his lone start of the season against the Astros, giving up two runs and five hits in five innings of a 5-2 home loss. He is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his last four starts against Houston at PNC Park.