The Arizona Diamondbacks couldn't get enough from their stingiest starting pitcher to end their recent woes. They're hoping their winningest one over the past three seasons will provide them with that much-needed boost.
Ian Kennedy will attempt to end his team's five-game skid by denying the Atlanta Braves a season-high sixth consecutive win Sunday and their first four-game sweep of the Diamondbacks.
Arizona (7-8) got a solid outing Saturday from Joe Saunders, who has a 1.29 ERA, but fell 3-2 as Dan Uggla hit the go-ahead solo homer in the third inning.
"When runs are at a premium, the pitching staff has to step up," Saunders told the team's official website. "Especially against a team like that, if you get to their bullpen, it's going to be tough to score."
After Saunders failed to end his team's losing streak, the Diamondbacks hope Kennedy (2-0, 3.86 ERA) can. The right-hander has 32 victories in his two-plus seasons with Arizona, eight more than any other Diamondbacks pitcher.
Kennedy, though, is coming off his only outing without a victory this season. He gave up four runs over six innings to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, though he avoided his first loss since Aug. 18 when his teammates rallied to tie the score in an eventual 5-4 defeat.
"All my command, off-speed was terrible, changeup was terrible, pretty much one of those days," said Kennedy, who allowed four earned runs in his first two starts.
Kennedy, a 21-game winner in 2011, has won eight consecutive decisions and is 15-1 over his last 18 starts, but the Braves (10-5) remain the only NL team he's never beaten. He could have a good chance Sunday since he's 9-0 over his last 10 outings at home.
The right-hander hasn't faced Atlanta in nearly two years and was denied a win in his most recent matchup on June 9, 2010, at Chase Field despite allowing just three hits over seven scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory.
Kennedy has a 2.03 ERA in his two career starts against the Braves, while his undefeated counterpart in Sunday's game, Randall Delgado, will face Arizona for the first time.
Delgado (2-0, 4.35) earned his second win in as many outings by getting eight runs of support Tuesday. In his ninth career start, he allowed three runs over 5 1-3 innings in a 9-3 win over the New York Mets.
"He's got a great arm, but he also pitches," outfielder Matt Diaz said. "You watched him get that lead and he went after people with fastballs. He knew the game. He played the game. He wasn't out there for his own numbers."
The Braves, who hit .165 and scored 10 runs during an 0-4 start, are hitting .293 with 77 runs scored while winning 10 of 11.
Michael Bourn had two hits in the most recent win and is 9 for 16 over his last four games. Freddie Freeman was 10 for 17 with five doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs before going 0 for 4 on Saturday.
Freeman has never faced Kennedy, while Bourn has one double in three at-bats.