Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 5/26/12

Bud Norris has been the best pitcher in baseball for the first 25 days of May.

On top of four wins in four starts, Norris has fashioned a 0.35 ERA. The next-closest ERA belongs to

Zach Greinke, who checks in at nearly a run higher (1.33).

Norris will put his status -- not to mention the first four-game winning streak of his career -- to the

test Saturday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost to Houston 3-1 Friday but still have

baseball's best record overall (30-15) and at home (19-5). Thanks to his May run, his career record has

crept above .500 (26-25) -- no small feat, given the Astros' struggles in recent years.

Astros bench coach Joe Pettini, for one, assumed Norris always had this sort of dominance in him.

It's pretty much the same Norris that Pettini saw from the opposing dugout as a St. Louis Cardinals

bench coach.

"I see him pitching here the same way he pitched against us the years I was in St. Louis," said Pettini,

who watched Norris go 7-2 with a 2.17 ERA and a .213 batting average allowed as St. Louis Cardinals bench

coach to Tony La Russa. "A lot of times, the St. Louis guys -- Albert (Pujols) and Matt (Holliday) --

couldn't figure out how he was doing it. But he kept doing it against us.

"He was going after hitters, getting them out. It was simple, but he made it work."

The Astros are 8-1 in the games he starts, and his performance has a lot to do with the staff leading

the National League in ERA in May (2.67, 60 earned runs in 202 innings). In his most recent outing this

past Tuesday, he shut out the Chicago Cubs for seven innings of an 8-4 victory. The only earned run of the

month was a fourth-inning solo homer by Milwaukee's Corey Hart the start before that in an 8-3 Astros

victory.

"I feel good," said Norris, who has struck out 58 batters in 57 1/3 innings. "I've been throwing the

ball well, kind of staying within the routine. We're all taking it one step at a time, just trying to keep

it going."

Astros catcher Jason Castro said Norris has been on the attack more than ever, getting ahead in the

count and then finishing off hitters from there. Norris has thrown strikes 65.7 percent of the time (270

for 411) in his past four starts, compared to his 62.0 percent norm entering this season.

"It's a confidence thing," Castro said. "He's really got a feel for what he's trying to do out there.

You can tell, no matter what pitch I call and what we go with, he's fully confident in what he's trying to

do. That's a huge part of pitching -- to be confident of your stuff. No matter what the count is or what

the pitch you're throwing, you can get the guy out on that pitch."

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