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HOU@SF: Norris fans 10 over seven frames

Maybe facing an unfamiliar foe will help Astros starter Bud Norris get back on track.

Norris will take the ball for Friday's opener against the Nationals -- a team he hasn't faced since last September. Norris (6-9, 3.83 ERA) already has career highs in innings and strikeouts this season, and his next outing will also mark a career high for starts.

Norris earned the win when he last faced Washington on Sept. 20, 2010. He allowed two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings in his only career start against the Nats.

Recently, Norris has struggled with just one win in his last 10 starts. His last outing was a nine-hit, six-run performance against the Brewers on Sept. 3, when he lasted just 5 1/3 innings. Norris struck out five, but gave up home runs to George Kottaras and Craig Counsell.

Norris wasn't helped out much by his defense, either.

"Yeah, it's tough," Norris said. "You're facing a first-place team, and those guys can swing it. Unfortunately, we had a couple of bad breaks for us, five-out innings or four-out innings. It's tough for anybody."

Washington counters with Tommy Milone, who is set for his second career big league start on Friday. Milone will make the start despite the second half of Thursday's scheduled doubleheader being rained out. Lefty Ross Detwiler, slated to start Thursday night, will have his turn in the rotation skipped.

In his first outing, Milone took a no-decision in the Nationals' 8-7 win over the Mets, going 4 1/3 innings and allowing four earned runs on six hits and no walks.

"He is a pitcher. I know everybody wanted me to stay with him," Nats manager Davey Johnson said. "He pitched well for me. He made a couple of bad pitches, but -- by and large -- he went after them. I didn't want to take a chance of him losing it."

Astros: Martinez benefits from day off
• Rookie outfielder J.D. Martinez was given a day off on Tuesday after going 2-for-15 at the plate to start September. He returned on Wednesday with a single in his first at-bat.

"I call it [thinking too much]," he said of his slump. "Sometimes you have to let your instincts take over and sometimes I get caught up in it. Sometimes you think you're smarter than the game and you begin to feel what they're going to throw you, and you start guessing. Once you start guessing, it's hard to get away from it."

• An industry source confirmed to MLB.com on Thursday that Commissioner Bud Selig has asked Houston businessman Jim Crane to agree to move the Astros to the American League if Crane is approved as the new owner of the club. Crane signed an agreement in May to buy the team for $680 million, but Major League Baseball has yet to approve the deal.

Nationals: Pudge unlikely to start for rest of season
• Johnson said on Thursday he plans to start Wilson Ramos at catcher the rest of the season, with Jesus Flores serving as the backup. That leaves Ivan Rodriguez as the odd man out, as he likely will not get another start behind the plate this year. Rodriguez wants to continue playing, and the catcher is only 158 hits from 3,000.

"He is ready to catch," Johnson said about Rodriguez, a free agent after this season. "He is a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He can still play. I have two guys that need to play more than he does for the reasons that are beneficial to the club.

"One, Ramos is the No. 1 catcher. He needs all the experience he can get. Two, Flo is coming back from two years on the shelf. He can regain his shape. That's very important. That's more important than Pudge getting in a game. I know [Rodriguez] wants to play and is ready to play. I explained that to him once."

• Steve Lombardozzi made his first Major League start on Thursday in Game 1 of the planned doubleheader against the Dodgers, going 0-for-5 with a strikeout.

"He was able to get into a game a couple of days ago and had a quality at-bat. He got on base," Johnson said. "I talked to him even before the game the other day, and told him that I was going to use him primarily at second and short. I would like to put him anywhere and let him play."

Worth noting
• The Astros have won five of their last 10 games and 10 of their last 21.

• With Jayson Werth's two-run homer on Thursday -- his 19th of the season -- the Nationals have now hit 74 of their 138 home runs at home.

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