Preview: Game #101, Diamondbacks vs. Cubs

Another victim of D.Baxter... - USA TODAY Sports

Seems like losing first-place didn't exactly demoralize the team last night, did it?

chc_medium

Jeff Samardzija
RHP, 6-9, 3.91
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Ian Kennedy
RHP, 3-7, 5.29

Diamondbacks line-up

  1. Adam Eaton, CF
  2. Gerardo Parra, RF
  3. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
  4. Eric Chavez, 3B
  5. Martin Prado, 2B
  6. Jason Kubel, LF
  7. Wil Nieves, C
  8. Didi Gregorius SS
  9. Ian Kennedy, P

Yep, that's Nieves getting back-to-back starts, which hasn't happened all that often this season. In fact, by "that often," I mean "at all." The last time we didn't see Miguel Montero in the starting line-up for consecutive games was back in last May, when he missed a handful of games with a groin strain, suffered while chasing a pop foul. Seems to be something of a health issue again this time:

Oh-oh... Just when Montero seemed to be getting his offensive game back in gear. Mind you, it really wouldn't surprise me if one of his more virulent home-run hacks pulled something, because there are times when I get a twinge, simply watching them.

It was really nice to see the offense get in a groove last night. Considering we'd lost first-place, it would have been easy for the team to panic, especially after falling behind early, and facing a pretty decent young pitcher. But they remained patient, got back in the game, and then blew things open, to the extent that I took the rest of the night off and watched a couple of movies instead. Throw in another excellent start from Corbin, and even wobbly outings from David Hernandez and Tony Sipp didn't have any significant impact. It was the first real blowout victory - in fact, the first by more than two runs - since the Colorado series.

So, maybe this second-place thing is just what the team needs to play loose. We'll just keep page with the Dodgers the rest of the way, then overtake Los Angeles during the last series of the season against them. Seems like a plan to me, because the Diamondbacks play better when they're not in sole possession of first place, being 26-26 there, compared to 26-22 when they're looking up at someone. Certainly, last night seemed like a very different D-backs performance, particularly at the plate, compared to the struggles we've seen both since and leading up to the All-Star break.

The question tonight is more likely to be, will Kennedy keep himself back on track. His first start of the second half began badly, with two runs allowed in the first; however, he settled down thereafter, and didn't allow any more damage through six. He definitely struggles early: over his 19 starts, he has now allowed 17 earned runs in the first, with opponents hitting .342 against him. Even the dreaded fourth inning has presented much less peril for Kennedy, batters there posting an average of only .208. So we'll be keeping our fingers cross that he can get through the first three outs this evening without damage.

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