Still playing like a playoff team, the Diamondbacks return to Chicago to open a three-game series against the struggling Cubs on Friday afternoon.
After winning the first two games of the NLDS at home, Arizona closed out the series with a 5-1 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field on Oct. 6. Though the Diamondbacks hit six homers in the series, their pitching was the difference as the Cubs batted .194 and hit just one homer.
Pitching again is a key reason Arizona (23-12) is atop the NL West standings and among the top staffs in the majors with a 3.54 ERA. Dan Haren (4-1, 3.12 ERA) has been a big part of that success and will take the ball Friday for the Diamondbacks..
“He’s got some more weapons than I thought,” manager Bob Melvin told the Diamondbacks’ official Web site. “He’s been pretty impressive.”
Haren, traded from Oakland in December, allowed two runs and three hits in six innings, but didn’t factor in the decision of a 5-2 loss to the New York Mets on Sunday.
The right-hander, who spent his first two seasons with St. Louis, is 0-1 with a 12.46 ERA against Chicago but hasn’t faced the Cubs since 2004.
Arizona is coming off an 8-3 victory over Philadelphia on Thursday to split the four-game set with the Phillies and close out a 5-5 homestand.
Upton has hit safely in eight of his last nine games while batting .414 during that span. Young, meanwhile, went 6-for-18 and homered in consecutive contests versus Philadelphia to raise his average to .248.
Chicago (19-15) begins a 10-game homestand hoping to bounce back from a 9-0 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday that concluded a disappointing 2-4 road trip.
After going 17-9 in April, the Cubs have lost five of seven to open May and dropped to 8-9 on the road, where they are hitting .246.
They are batting .315 at Wrigley, where they are 11-6.
“It’s a little frustrating,” Chicago’s Derrek Lee told the team’s official Web site. “You don’t want to give back what you gained. It happened, and you put it behind you and try to start fresh at home.”
Despite having scored 195 runs—second in the NL to Arizona’s 201—Chicago has scored just 24 runs in its last seven games and was shut out for the second time Wednesday.
Lee, who’s hitting .324, was just 4-for-25 with an RBI on the recent road trip, but is batting .377 with seven homers and 14 RBIs in 17 home games.
Lilly allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings of a 9-3 win at St. Louis on Saturday, but is 0-2 with a 2.84 ERA against Arizona in the regular season. He allowed six runs in 3 1-3 innings of an 8-4 loss at Arizona in Game 2 of the NLDS last fall.