Norris leads Astros into opener versus Angels

The Houston Astros haven't won consecutive games in almost two weeks, but the club has to feel good about its chances with Bud Norris set to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

That's because Norris has dominated the Angels this season and he'll look to beat them for a fourth time in four meetings as the teams start up a three- game series on Friday.

Houston has gone 4-5 in nine games since winning four straight from June 12-16. The Astros are coming off a victory though, a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Cardinals to split a two-game set.

Erik Bedard settled down after some early trouble to hold the Cardinals to three runs over six innings and Houston's offense plated all four of its runs during the fourth inning.

"He did a great job out there tonight," said Houston catcher Jason Castro. "He regrouped there after a couple of tough innings and was able to throw strikes on a consistent basis."

Brandon Barnes, Carlos Pena, J.D. Martinez and Brett Wallace each drove in a run for the Astros.

The pressure should be off Houston's bats if Norris can continue his season- long success versus the Angels. He had never faced them before this year, but has held them to just one run over 21 innings in winning three starts.

In the lone previous meeting in Houston on May 8, the right-handed Norris pitched eight innings of one-run ball.

Norris is 5-7 with a 3.60 earned run average in 16 starts this season and had lost three straight outings before a no-decision versus the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. The 28-year-old allowed three runs -- two earned -- on six hits and three walks over six innings and the Astros managed a 4-3 win.

Norris has gone at least six innings in seven straight starts and in 10 of his past 11.

For the Angels, Jerome Williams makes another start in place of the injured Jason Vargas. It will be his ninth start of the season and 20th appearance.

The right-hander is coming off a 6-1 loss to Pittsburgh, which tagged him for five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and two walks. Williams also allowed two home runs for the second time in his last three starts.

"I thought Jerome's stuff was good, he just missed a few spots," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

The 31-year-old Williams is 5-3 with a 3.36 ERA this season and suffered a 2-0 loss to Houston on June 1. He gave up both runs in the setback on three hits and three walks over seven innings while matching a season high with six strikeouts.

He is 1-3 lifetime versus the Astros with a 4.09 ERA in five starts.

The Angels are looking to build some momentum ahead of next month's All-Star Game and are coming off a three-game sweep of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers. They finished off the set with Thursday's 3-1 victory, scoring twice in the 10th inning.

J.B. Shuck opened the extra frame with a single and quickly moved to third on Mike Trout's liner through the right side. Albert Pujols then drilled a deep fly to center and Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson nearly made a terrific catch, but the ball just grazed off the tip of his glove and fell to the warning track, allowing Shuck to easily cross home.

Josh Hamilton provided some insurance with a sacrifice fly two batters later, while Trout finished with four hits.

The Angels, though, remain seven games under .500 and 10 games out of first place in the AL West. And they were swept in three games by Pittsburgh prior to beating Detroit.

"Before we start talking about sweeps, we need to get to the next game. We need to carry momentum," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

The Astros have won four straight over the Angels and lead the season series 7-3.