Javier Vazquez will try to continue Arizona’s recent run of dominant pitching and get the Diamondbacks closer to first place in the mediocre NL West when he faces the Chicago Cubs in the middle game of their series.
Brad Halsey pitched six innings of four-hit ball Thursday as the Diamondbacks cruised to a 6-0 win in the opener—their second straight shutout victory. Luis Gonzalez and Chad Tracy homered for Arizona, which beat Milwaukee 3-0 on Wednesday.
Thanks to their pitchers not allowing a run in the last 19 innings, the Diamondbacks have moved within two games of first-place San Diego in the West.
Vazquez, who came to Arizona with Halsey in the offseason deal that sent five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson to the New York Yankees, has won two of his last three outings, including a 3-2 victory over NL East-leading Atlanta on Sunday.
The veteran right-hander yielded two runs and three hits over eight innings, striking out a season-high 11 and walking two. Vazquez has gone at least eight innings in three of his last four starts.
Unbeaten in his last three starts, Mark Prior will try to help Chicago bounce back from Thursday’s loss.
Prior, who spent a month on the disabled list with a fractured bone in his pitching elbow, has gone 3-2 in six outings since his return on June 26. Chicago’s oft-injured ace did not receive a decision in the Cubs’ 8-4 victory over St. Louis on Sunday, yielding three runs and five hits over six innings.
He did show great resolve in the outing after giving up three solo homers in the first inning. Prior had not surrendered a homer in either of his previous two starts—both wins.
“I left some bad pitches up in the zone early and they came out aggressive,” Prior said. “Fortunately, they were all solo home runs. I battled through and kept us in the ballgame.
“After I gave up the home runs, you shake your head—it happens. I wanted to keep us there and keep us close.”
The Cubs have won eight of Prior’s last 10 starts overall, and will need the right-hander to stay healthy with Kerry Wood back on the disabled list with a recurring shoulder injury.