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Series Preview #33, vs. Chicago Cubs

With the second half of the season underway, Arizona returns home to host the struggling Chicago Cubs.

Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE

What's New?

In their final series of the season's first half, Arizona managed to get just one of three games from the San Francisco Giants in the Bay Area. Perhaps the only bright spot of the three-game set came on Saturday afternoon, as left hander Wade Miley shut out the Giants over seven innings, surrendering just four hits in the 2-0 win. After the first half of the season, Arizona is 40-56 overall, 13.5 games behind Los Angeles for first place in the NL West. They are half a game behind Colorado for fourth place in the division, and 1.5 games behind San Diego for third place.

The Diamondbacks offense remains one of the league's worst, ranking 27th in wRC+ (89) and 23rd in offensive WAR (8.1). They have batted .254/.307/.389 with a wOBA of .306 as a team thus far this season. They're actually a solid team this season once they get the ball in play, posting a .298 BABIP that is good for 15th in the majors. Arizona's pitching staff is almost just as bad, yielding the 27th ranked team ERA in baseball (4.27), which when adjust for FIP is still just 21st in the majors (3.95) They prefer to attack lower in the zone, forcing the eighth-highest ground ball rate in baseball (47.1%). However, when they do yield contact, they have struggled with the fourth-highest BABIP in the majors (.311).

Chicago's offense is almost as bad, if not worse, than Arizona's. They're 28th in wRC+ (85), and 24th in offensive WAR (7.0) this season. As a team, they are batting just .237/.298/.380, posting the 27th wOBA in the majors at .299. They struggle with the punch out, striking out at the fourth-highest rate in the majors (22.7%) and walking just 7.3% of the time. The Cubs pitching staff has been solid despite trading ace Jeff Samardzija, posting the 18th-ranked team ERA (3.86) and seventh-best FIP (3.50) in baseball. They find the majority of their success through the strikeout, punching out batters at the sixth-best rate in the majors (8.30 K/9).

The Cubs come into the series having won just one of three at Wrigley against the Atlanta Braves in their last set. They’ve gone 2-8 over their last ten games overall, and are 12 games behind Milwaukee for first place in the NL Central. They head back out on the road, there they are 20-32 this season.

On The Mend

Diamondbacks left fielder Mark Trumbo was activated from the 15-day disabled list last Friday after missing time with a stress fracture in his right foot.

Roster Moves

On Monday, Arizona optioned right hander Mike Bolsinger to Triple-A Reno; in a resulting move, Arizona recalled right hander Trevor Cahill from Triple-A Reno.

On Friday, Chicago made a flurry of moves, optioning right handers Kyle Hendricks and Blake Parker to Triple-A Iowa. They then activated second baseman Darwin Barney from the paternity list and recalled left hander Zach Rosscup from Triple-A Iowa.

(Slow) Progress

Arizona has made their share of positive progress this season since their horrid start in April, and despite the expected flurry of moves during July's trade deadline and September call-ups, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Diamondbacks continue their slow march back to mediocrity. Here's a month-by-month record breakdown for the Diamondbacks:

March/April: 9-21

May: 14-13

June: 12-14

July*: 5-7

*: Current month

As it shows, Arizona has essentially been a .500 team since their poor start, so if the Diamondbacks can gather just one strong month throughout the rest of the season it isn't unimaginable to see their season end up just as mediocre as the last two were.

Pitching Matchups:

Game 1, Friday 6:40 PT: RHP Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.64 ERA, 4.26 FIP) vs. RHP Trevor Cahill (1-6, 5.66 ERA, 4.15 FIP)

Jackson has struggled in the Windy City this season, including his last outing in which he gave up nine runs on seven hits in 3.2 innings in a loss to the Atlanta Braves. He's been horrific on the road this season, going 1-7 with a 6.05 ERA in ten starts outside of Wrigley Field. He has produced a quality start in just five of his 19 starts. Cahill is making his first major league start since April 15th after a decent stretch (3.86 ERA over six starts) in Triple-A Reno. He is 0-4 with a 7.71 ERA in eight appearances at home this season.

Game 2, Saturday 5:10 PT: LHP Travis Wood (7-8, 4.96 ERA, 4.29 FIP) vs. LHP Wade Miley (5-6, 4.18 ERA, 3.96 FIP)

Wood has struggled since his strong start to 2014, including his last start where he gave up seven runs over six innings in a loss against the Braves. He is 2-4 with a 5.29 ERA in six career starts against Arizona. Miley was just heating up as the first half came to a close, giving up just three runs and striking out 22 batters over his last 21.2 innings (three starts). Miley is 1-5 with a  5.64 ERA in his ten home starts this season.

Game 3, Sunday 1:10 PT: RHP Jake Arrieta (5-1, 1.95 ERA, 2.14 FIP) vs. RHP Josh Collmenter (7-5, 3.80 ERA, 3.97 FIP)

Arrieta has been incredible thus far in 2014, and is coming off of a start where he gave up three runs over 7.2 innings against Atlanta. His 1.95 ERA in his 13 starts since May 1st is second only to Dodgers left hander Clayton Kershaw. Collmenter wrapped up his first half strong, giving up just a run over seven innings in a no decision against the Marlins. He is 5-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 13 home appearances (nine starts) this season.

Series Pick'em

I think Arizona takes two of three from this set. Both Jackson and Cahill have been terrible, but Cahill has had the most recent success (albeit at a lower level). Expect both teams to slug it out in Friday night's opener. Wood has fallen off recently, and that paired with his career struggles against Arizona and Miley's recent success certainly tilts Saturday's game in Arizona's favor. While Arrieta has pitched well, it remains to be seen if he can sustain that success into the season's second half.