A pair of dominant starts has the Arizona Diamondbacks back on track. Giving the ball to Daniel Hudson(notes) could help the NL West leaders move another step closer to their first division title in four years.
Hudson looks to become the second Arizona pitcher in as many nights to win his 10th home game as the Diamondbacks continue their series against the light-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
Since three straight losses trimmed their West lead over San Francisco to five games, the Diamondbacks (89-65) have rebounded nicely behind strong outings from Joe Saunders(notes) and Ian Kennedy(notes).
After Kennedy came within one out of a complete game in Sunday’s 5-1 win at San Diego, Kennedy struck out a career high-tying 12 and threw eight innings of one-hit ball in Monday’s 1-0 series-opening victory over Pittsburgh (68-86).
Kennedy’s effort increased Arizona’s division lead to 5 1/2 games and lowered its magic number to four.
“This is the most important part, which is winning games, taking away that magic number and clinching here pretty soon,” Kennedy said.
One night after Kennedy improved to 10-2 at home and became the NL’s first 20-game winner, Hudson (16-10, 3.39 ERA) will try to rebound from his first loss in nearly a month.
The right-hander, who was 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his previous four starts, allowed two runs over seven solid innings Wednesday but 3-2 on the road to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Hudson has compiled a 1.13 ERA while winning his last three starts at Chase Field, and he’s 9-2 with a 2.77 ERA the last 13 times he’s taken the mound in Phoenix.
Hudson has no decisions and a 1.35 ERA in two career starts against the Pirates - both coming in Pittsburgh - including Arizona’s 8-5 loss June 7, when he allowed three runs - one earned - and three hits over seven innings while striking out seven.
Hudson will now face a Pirates lineup that’s totaled four runs and is batting .169 during a four-game skid.
Morton dropped his fourth consecutive start Wednesday, giving up three runs in seven innings of a 3-2 loss to St. Louis that clinched the Pirates’ 19th consecutive season with a sub.-500 record.
As disappointed as Morton is about his contribution to that dubious North American professional sports record, he’d like to finish strong in his last two starts of 2011. The right-hander is in unchartered waters, with his 160 2/3 innings far surpassing his previous career high of 97 in 2009.
“The workload, knowing the responsibilities, the expectations, those are all things I need to go through, and I need to face. I’ve been given that opportunity,” Morton told the Pirates’ official website. “To get to where I want to be, I have to be able to go out there and take the ball and get the innings.”
Morton, 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in his last three road starts, is 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in three career outings in Arizona.
The Pirates have dropped 13 of 17 in Arizona.