R.A. Dickey aims for a fourth win in five 2012 starts tonight when the New York Mets head to Minute Maid Park to begin a three-game series with the host Houston Astros.
The Nashville native and University of Tennessee product was the 16th pick of the 1996 draft by the Texas Rangers, but had won just 22 times in parts of seven big-league seasons with three teams before breaking out with 11 victories with the Mets in 2010.
He followed up with eight more wins in 33 appearances with New York in 2011 and is off to a successful start thus far in April - allowing two runs or less in each of his three victories against Atlanta, Philadelphia and Miami.
He was a 5-1 winner over the Marlins in his most recent start after going seven innings and striking out seven batters.
Eight of the 12 runs he's allowed this season came in the one loss - at Atlanta on April 18 - in which he was tagged for eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
Dickey has dropped two of three decisions in six career meetings with Houston while posting a 3.82 earned run average in 30 2/3 innings.
He will be opposed by righty Bud Norris, a California native who turned 11 the year Dickey was drafted. Norris was a sixth-round pick of the Astros 10 years later in 2006 and debuted with them when he made 11 appearances and won six games in 2009.
He upped the total to nine victories in 2010 and again won six times in 31 starts last season with a respectable 3.77 ERA in a career-high 186 innings.
He got no-decisions in each of his first two starts of 2012 and has subsequently split the next two while allowing 19 hits and 11 runs in 11 2/3 innings.
In four career starts against the Mets, Norris is 1-1 with a 4.85 ERA.
On Sunday in Colorado, Ike Davis singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the 11th inning and the Mets edged the Rockies, 6-5, in the finale of a three- game series at Coors Field.
Frank Francisco (1-1) earned the win despite giving up a game-tying solo homer to Carlos Gonzalez in the 10th, and Ramon Ramirez survived a couple of loud outs in the 11th to earn his first save of the season.
David Wright added two hits and a pair of RBI, Kirk Nieuwenhuis finished 3- for-6 with an RBI double, Josh Thole added a solo homer and Hairston contributed an RBI single for the Mets, who have won five of their last six games.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati, Jay Bruce hit a tie-breaking home run leading off the bottom of the eighth inning, as the Reds rallied to edge the Astros, 6-5, in the rubber match of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Jed Lowrie belted a two-run homer and added an RBI single in the loss for the Astros, who have lost six of nine.
Jordan Lyles made his season debut against the Reds after being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City. The 21-year-old right-hander allowed three runs on four hits and three walks in six frames.
The Astros split their six meetings with the Mets last season.