By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- After a particularly difficult road loss, the Arizona Diamondbacks are looking to put a missed opportunity behind them.
A return to Chase Field and a visit from the majors' worst team should make them feel at least a little better.
The Diamondbacks begin a 10-game homestand Friday night when they take on the offensively challenged Houston Astros in the opener of a three-game series.
With a 6-0 lead going into the sixth inning Thursday, Arizona was in ideal position to take three of four at NL Central-leading Cincinnati. But Joe Saunders gave up three runs and Bryan Shaw allowed four more in the seventh as the Diamondbacks (44-48) lost 7-6, finishing their road trip at a disappointing 2-5.
"You have to tip your cap and move on," Saunders said. "It's a shame we couldn't close it out and win the series."
The upcoming homestand will be critical for Arizona, which went into the All-Star break four games out of first in the NL West, but is now seven back of San Francisco with the trade deadline looming at the end of the month.
Facing Houston could help the Diamondbacks make up ground, particularly at home. The Astros (34-59) have dropped 16 of their last 18 and have been dismal offensively. On the road, they've hit .196 while going 1-16 in their last 17 games.
Conversely, Arizona has won 15 of its last 21 at Chase Field after struggling there earlier this season.
The Diamondbacks will send Trevor Cahill (7-8, 3.71 ERA) to the mound in the opener. Cahill has lost three of his last four starts, but has received no more than one run of support in all three losses. The right-hander gave up three runs - two of them on a homer - over 5 1-3 innings of a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs last Sunday.
Cahill is making his first start against Houston, which comes into Phoenix having lost three straight to San Diego after beginning the series with a win Monday.
The Astros were one-hit in a 1-0 loss Thursday, wasting seven solid innings by Lucas Harrell. Houston's only hit was a single by Matt Downs in the fourth.
The defeat marked the fourth time in 17 games the Astros were shut out. They've scored 16 runs and hit .164 over their last eight contests, but, despite the continued struggles, remain optimistic.
"It's going to turn here, and it's going to turn here quick," manager Brad Mills said. "We're looking forward to it turning tomorrow night in Arizona."
The lack of offense certainly hasn't helped Bud Norris (5-7, 4.70), who has lost six straight starts since his last win against the Cubs on May 21. Norris gave up three runs in six innings to San Francisco last Sunday, but was on the short end of a 3-2 decision.
"I wasn't very sharp and I struggled to find consistency," Norris said. "I have plenty of starts left and I have to get back out there out there and pitch better."
The right-hander hasn't had any success against the Diamondbacks, going 0-3 with a 10.91 ERA in four starts. Lyle Overbay is 3 for 11 against Norris with two homers, while Ryan Roberts is 4 for 11 with a homer, triple and double.
Arizona has dominated Houston in recent years, winning 14 of its last 18 overall and 15 of 21 at home.
Updated July 20, 2012