The Cincinnati Reds have won six straight four times this season, but they've yet to push any run to seven. Sending Homer Bailey to the mound against the team with the worst record in the majors could finally help them get over that hump.
Riding a career-best four-start winning streak, Bailey attempts to win five consecutive decisions for the first time Wednesday night when he faces a Houston Astros team he has dominated throughout his time in the big leagues.
The visiting Reds (57-40) have taken the first two matchups in this three-game series, scoring three times in the ninth inning of Tuesday night's 4-2 victory to extend their win streak to six.
Cincinnati also won six in a row May 19-24, June 12-17 and July 6-15, but it hasn't had a seven-game run since Aug. 13-20, 2010.
Bailey (9-6, 3.74 ERA) seems to give the Reds, who have won 13 of 15, an excellent opportunity to match that streak.
The right-hander is 4-0 with a 1.76 ERA in his last four starts, and his career numbers against the Astros (34-64) are quite similar. He is 4-0 with a 1.60 ERA in five outings, going 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA in two starts at Minute Maid Park.
Bailey pitched eight innings for the third time in his last four starts Friday, allowing one run and six hits with a career high-tying 10 strikeouts in a 3-1 home win over Milwaukee.
"He works at it," manager Dusty Baker said. "He wants to be great."
Bailey went 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in five June outings.
"I've kind of established a little bit of a routine," said Bailey, who has posted a 2.13 ERA while winning his last five road starts. "I'm getting better at knowing what I need to do to prepare every day and now it's just leading to success."
Bailey will be opposed by Bud Norris (5-8, 5.33), who has lost seven straight starts. He allowed nine runs, six hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings of a 13-8 defeat at Arizona on Friday.
"I don't know what to say," said Norris, who is 0-2 with a 7.23 ERA in four outings against Cincinnati. "It wasn't pretty. I am out there grinding, battling and trying to make pitches. I didn't miss many barrels today."
Norris' last five starts have been on the road, and a return to Minute Maid Park may be what he needs to end his skid. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.27 ERA in six starts at home compared to 2-7 with a 7.46 ERA in 11 road outings.
Houston will be hoping for another solid home start from Norris as it tries to avoid a season high-tying ninth straight loss. The Astros have dropped 21 of 23, and they made their third significant trade in five days Tuesday night, sending pitcher Wandy Rodriguez to Pittsburgh for three minor leaguers.
Rodriguez was the only player remaining from the Astros' 2005 trip to the World Series.
"We look forward and look to the future and want to do everything we can to improve this ballclub at all levels," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "... It's been rough for the past couple of years and we're doing everything we can to hurry it up so we can get back to those types of years."
Cincinnati, which has won six of eight in the season series, hasn't swept a three-game set from the Astros since April 2010.