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National League Preview from The Sports Network

Friday, May 11th (All times Eastern)

Houston Astros (14-17) at Pittsburgh Pirates (14-17), 7:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Houston - Bud Norris (2-1, 4.58) Pittsburgh - James McDonald (2-1, 2.70)

(Sports Network) - Right-hander Bud Norris continues what's been both a personally and collectively successful season so far when the Houston Astros head to PNC Park to open a three-game weekend set with a National League Central Division rival - the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Astros head to Pennsylvania after a prolonged homestand at Minute Maid Park, where they won six of nine games for the first time since 2010.

Houston had the worst record in the major leagues last season, winning just 56 times in 162 games.

The California-born Norris, who turned 27 years old in March, won just six times in 31 starts for the Astros in 2011, in spite of a respectable 3.77 earned run average across a career-high 186 innings.

He's had significantly better luck thus far in 2012, picking up two wins in three decisions while Houston has won all but one of his six starts.

He earned an 8-2 win over defending World Series champion St. Louis in his most recent outing on May 5 after allowing three hits and an unearned run in six innings with four strikeouts.

Norris has not lost since April 24 at Milwaukee and has pitched at least six innings - while giving up three or fewer earned runs - in four of six starts.

He is 3-4 in eight career starts against the Pirates.

Pittsburgh counters with another 27-year-old right-handed Californian James McDonald, who also aims for a third win in four decisions.

McDonald, who won a career-high nine games last season in 31 starts, was 0-1 with a no-decision in his initial two outings of 2012, but is unbeaten in his last four - including wins at Atlanta and home with Cincinnati on April 30 and May 5.

In those two outings, he's combined to pitch 14 innings while allowing 13 hits and four runs with four walks and 17 strikeouts.

McDonald is 20-21 in 41 career big-league decisions since debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.

In three home starts this season, he's allowed just four runs in 19 1/3 innings.

On Thursday in Pittsburgh, Washington's Stephen Strasburg (3-0) racked up 13 strikeouts over six innings while giving up one earned run on five hits and three walks in a 4-2 victory over the Pirates.

Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker had RBI base hits for the Pirates, who had a two-game winning streak snapped.

Kevin Correia (1-3) gave up three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out one over seven frames.

Meanwhile in Houston on Wednesday, Omar Infante singled in two runs in the top of the 12th inning and the Marlins completed a road trip with a 5-3 win.

Chris Johnson hit a solo home run for Houston and Lucas Harrell was charged with three runs - two earned - over 5 1/3 innings in the start.

Pittsburgh was 11-7 against the Astros last season.

05/11 10:55:57 ET