Right-hander Ian Kennedy tries to shake off a mediocre first half of the 2012 season today, when his Arizona Diamondbacks open the second half at Wrigley Field for the first of three games with the Chicago Cubs.
A 27-year-old product of the University of Southern California, Kennedy had a breakout season in 2011 and went 21-4 in 33 starts while posting a 2.88 earned run average across a career-best 222 innings of work.
The production led him to a fourth-place finish in the National League's Cy Young Award voting.
He struggled to maintain that standard in the initial portion this year, however, dropping seven of 13 decisions across 17 starts while the Diamondbacks reached the All-Star break third in the NL West, four games behind first-place Los Angeles.
Kennedy pitched well in his final two pre-break starts, allowing five earned runs in 14 innings while getting a win and a no-decision against Milwaukee and San Diego, respectively.
He last faced the Cubs on June 23 and was battered for 10 hits and five runs in 4 1/3 innings, but got only a no-decision in a game Arizona ultimately won, 10-5.
Kennedy has split two decisions in four career starts against Chicago.
He's opposed by lefty Paul Maholm, who's six wins in the season's opening half equaled the six he posted in 26 starts with Pittsburgh a season before.
Maholm spent seven seasons with the Pirates before signing a free agent deal with Chicago in January.
He was 4-6 through his initial 14 appearances - including the loss in the aforementioned 10-5 game on June 23 - but won his last two starts before the break while allowing just a run on 12 hits in 14 1/3 innings against Houston and Atlanta.
He pitched an inning of scoreless relief against the New York Mets in his final first-half appearance on July 8 - the first relief outing in his 202 big-league games.
Maholm is 0-3 in six career meetings with Arizona.
On Sunday in Arizona, Trevor Bauer earned his first major league victory and Paul Goldschmidt knocked in four runs as the Diamondbacks downed the Dodgers, 7-1, in the finale of a four-game series.
Bauer (1-1), who gave up seven runs - six earned - in his last start, rebounded to hold the Dodgers scoreless over six frames while allowing only two hits. He struck out six and walked one, after walking seven in his first 7 1/3 innings in the big leagues.
"He really got rolling there after about the third inning," Arizona manager Kirk Gibson said. "His pitch count got up, I probably wasn't going to let him get over 105, so we removed him at the time and he had a good, successful start and was in good position to get his first win."
"You can tell he's got command of three pitches," Dodgers third baseman Jerry Hairston said. "For a young guy, it's kind of rare. He's got a really good fastball, and his changeup's pretty good and obviously his slider, curveball. So he pitched well (Sunday), give him credit."
Bauer improved throughout the day. After allowing leadoff doubles in the second and third innings, he retired 12 straight hitters to shut down Los Angeles.
Goldschmidt picked up a pair of hits, including a double, to help Arizona wrap up the first half of the season with three straight wins.
Justin Upton, surrounded by trade talk, also excelled for the Diamondbacks, coming up a homer short of the cycle and scoring three runs.
In New York, a four-run first inning was all the support Ryan Dempster needed in his return from the disabled list, as the Cubs blanked the Mets, 7-0, in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Dempster (4-3), who landed on the DL June 18, gave up four hits and didn't issue a walk over five frames, extending his scoreless inning streak to 27 in the process. He has now won four straight games since snapping an 18-start winless streak on June 5.
"Any time I get up to hit, or close to hitting, in the first inning I like my chances," Dempster said. "The guys came out swinging the bats great and made every play on defense."
Geovany Soto singled home a pair during the first-inning burst and Starlin Castro added a three-run homer in the seventh for the Cubs, who headed into the break having won nine of their last 13 games.
Arizona swept a three-game set from the Cubs earlier in the year.