Diamondbacks-Astros preview

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By Natalie Rivers By Natalie Rivers

(AP) -- With a string of games against sub-.500 teams coming up, the Arizona Diamondbacks would appear to have a good chance to make a postseason push.

The Diamondbacks begin that promising stretch Friday night with a visit to the major league-worst Houston Astros.

Time is drawing short for Arizona (59-59) to make its move toward a second straight postseason berth, but the Diamondbacks have 10 straight matchups against teams with losing records: Houston (39-80), Miami and San Diego.

Arizona could use some success in those games as it's currently 5 1/2 back in the NL West and six games behind the NL wild-card leaders.

The Diamondbacks helped themselves Thursday when they avoided a three-game sweep in St. Louis with a 2-1 victory. Paul Goldschmidt and Chris Young hit back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning for their team's fourth victory in 12 contests.

"It's been a slow go for us, and we were getting shut out again," manager Kirk Gibson said. "We had good life tonight. Guys were upbeat right until the end and good things happened."

Arizona hasn't earned back-to-back wins since claiming four straight July 30-Aug. 3, and will try to pull off that feat by continuing its dominance over the Astros. The Diamondbacks have won nine of 10 matchups, including a three-game sweep at Chase Field from July 20-22, and seven of eight in Houston.

Wade Miley (12-8, 3.02 ERA) earned a win in the middle game during that July series - his only matchup with Houston - by yielding one run over seven innings.

The left-hander, though, is coming off one of his worst outings of the season, giving up six runs over 4 1-3 innings in a 6-5 defeat to Washington on Saturday. He had given up three or fewer runs over each of his previous five outings and one run in each of the previous two.

"I wasn't executing pitches. I was staying middle," he told the team's website. "I wasn't commanding the ball at all."

Miley might have a chance to bounce against the Astros, who are 12-48 on the road, 8-22 against NL West opponents and 7-37 in their last 44 overall.

He'll also pitch opposite Dallas Keuchel again in this game. The rookie left-hander gave up seven runs to Arizona during the shortest outing of his career, 3 1-3 innings, on July 21, and his struggles have continued.

Keuchel (1-4, 5.29) is 0-4 with a 7.84 ERA over his last six games but has given up four runs in each of his last two games. He avoided taking losses in both contests, and gave up just two earned runs and five hits over six innings during his team's 6-5 win over Milwaukee on Saturday.

"It's nice to be able to go out there and command the ball to both sides of the plate and up and down," Keuchel said. "I felt good from the get go."

Jason Kubel hit a pair of home runs off Keuchel during the most recent matchup, but he's batting .167 with three homers over his last 18 games.