Two of the best pitchers in the National League square off this evening when Ian Kennedy and the Arizona Diamondbacks welcome Yovani Gallardo and the Milwaukee Brewers to Chase Field for the start of a three- game series.
Tonight's meeting, of course, is the first between the two teams since Milwaukee almost blew a two games to none lead to upend the Diamondbacks in five games of last year's NLDS.
While Arizona's worst-to-first turnaround in the NL West and the Brewers' franchise-record 96 wins and NL Central crown were great stories a year ago, it's been a different story for both in 2012, thanks in part to the two men toeing the rubber this evening.
Arizona is off to a 20-25 start and Kennedy tonight will be trying to avoid a career-high fifth straight loss. A 21-game winner last season, Kennedy opened this year with three straight winning decisions, but has lost his last four times out, including an ugly effort to Kansas City on Saturday that saw him surrender six runs in only 4 1/3 frames. He is 3-4 on the year with a 4.47 ERA.
He had been 16-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his previous 20 starts.
"Every time I fail, succeed, anything, I try to learn from it, make myself a little better the next time," Kennedy said.
Kennedy has faced the Brewers three times and is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA against them. He was 0-1 against them in the playoffs last season with a 4.26 ERA.
As a team the Diamondbacks have dropped 12 of 18 and find themselves 10 1/2 games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the division.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, has been even worse, as it has lost eight of 11 and is 18-26 on the year, sitting in front of only the lowly Chicago Cubs in the NL Central. The Brewers have also lost 13 of 17 on the road.
Gallardo, who is 2-4 with a 4.62 ERA on the year, did not get a decision on Saturday against Minnesota, but pitched well, allowing just an earned run in six innings of his team's 5-4 loss. After giving up eight runs in two innings in a loss to St. Louis back on April 27, Gallardo has allowed a total of eight earned runs in his four subsequent outings.
The Mexican right-hander could get himself further untracked tonight, as he is 5-0 lifetime versus the D'Backs with a 1.20 ERA in five regular season starts. He also outdueled Kennedy in Game 5 of the NLDS last season.
Arizona was 4-3 in the regular season a year ago against the Brewers.