Preview: Game #55, Diamondbacks @ Cubs

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Suddenly, the Cubs are the hottest team in baseball, having won five in a row (no-one else has a streak above three). Can Ian Kennedy cool them off? Or will be be sliced and diced?

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Ian Kennedy
RHP, 2-3, 4.70

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Jeff Samardzija
RHP, 3-6, 2.85

Diamondbacks Line-up

  1. Gerardo Parra, RF
  2. Didi Gregorius, SS
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Miguel Montero, C
  5. Martin Prado, 3B
  6. Jason Kubel, LF
  7. A.J. Pollock, CF
  8. Willie Bloomquist, 2B
  9. Ian Kennedy, P

Mr. Bloomquist makes his first appearance for the 2013 Diamondbacks. If he fails to reach base safely at least twice, as he did every game in his rehab assignment with Reno, it seems fair and reasonable to demand his immediate return there. Wait, what? Still, there is good news on the Aaron Hill front, who took 40 swings off a batting tee today, and felt fine. Gibson said Hill might face live pitching some time next weekend, and also that tests showed Hill's hand strength was "now up to about 90%" of normal, which is another encouraging sign. Could certainly do with getting him back.

Kennedy's ERA has been sitting in the 4.70-5.20 range for the past six starts now, which certainly isn't very good for your #1 starter. Right now, it's at the bottom end of that range, but it needs to be lower, so we hope his cut finger has fully recovered. IPK just hasn't had very many good starts of late, with only one Game Score reaching 60 since his first start, with the average over that time sitting at a distinctly underwhelming 49. Admittedly, top to bottom, the rotation has been relatively strong for the Diamondbacks, but it's curiously bass-ackwards, with the guy who had to compete for his spot in spring, easily the ace to date, and the Opening Day starter struggling for consistency.

I was going to insert something about salary, but I'd forgotten that Kennedy isn't actually that expensive this season. His $4.6 million makes him only the fifth-highest on the pitching staff, and third among the starters, behind Trevor Cahill ($5.5m) and Brandon McCarthy ($5.25m). Though the departure of the latter for the DL, means that even with the return of Bloomquist, we currently have over $21 million in salaries sitting on the sidelines. Still some way short of the $75 million the Yankees have - though I see the Dodgers' Carl Crawford pulled up lame this afternoon in Colorado, and if he goes down, Los Angeles will take over, with $84.7 million on the DL.

Curiously, it's possible we could lose this afternoon and still gain ground in the NL West. That's because the Giants are playing a double-header today, after yesterday's tornado-warning-out, and were crushed 8-0 in the opener by the Cardinals. If they lose the night-cap, which starts more or less when our game does, we'll be guaranteed to finish the day at least half a game more ahead of them than we were this morning - and, obviously, a win would lead to an even better outcome. Be nice if we can avoid falling seven to nine runs behind before the Diamondbacks get themselves on the board today.

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