- While Jonathan Sanchez hopes a return to the National League West can revive his sagging career, the Arizona Diamondbacks have designs on making their way back to the top of the division standings.
The defending NL West champions attempt to tie a season best for consecutive victories when they continue their current homestand with the first of three meetings with the cellar-dwelling Colorado Rockies tonight at Chase Field.
Arizona got a critical stretch of 10 straight home games off to an excellent start, winning all three matchups with the lowly Houston Astros this past weekend. The Diamondbacks' offense led the way, with the club pounding out 33 runs and belting six homers over the course of the series.
Jason Kubel has been especially swinging a hot bat for Arizona. The veteran outfielder had his first career three-homer game in Saturday's 12-3 rout, then went 3-for-4 with a solo shot in yesterday's 8-2 triumph.
Kubel is batting a torrid .409 with six homers and 11 RBI over his last five outings, raising his season average to .300 in the process.
The Diamondbacks trailed 2-1 entering the bottom of the sixth inning of Sunday's contest, but scored seven times to forge ahead. Chris Young slugged a three-run homer to break the game open, with Gerardo Parra's two-RBI single capping the outburst.
The big inning made a winner out of starting pitcher Josh Collmenter, who surrendered two runs on seven hits and a walk over the first six frames.
"He's just really solid," said Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. "He's really hard to rattle in situations. He has conviction in his pitches. He just does so many things well."
The Diamondbacks have now ripped off six straight wins at Chase Field and moved to within six games of San Francisco for the NL West's top spot with Sunday's result. They'll be seeking their first four-game overall win streak since June 20-24 in tonight's opener.
Gibson will call upon ace Ian Kennedy in this evening's tilt, with the 2011 breakout star coming off one of his best performances of the season.
Kennedy matched a season-best with eight innings pitched last Wednesday in Cincinnati, holding the Reds to just one run while striking out seven without issuing a walk. The right-hander rebounded from a rough showing in his first start after the All-Star break in which he was tagged for six runs and a pair of homers over five frames in a July 13 road loss to the Chicago Cubs.
The 27-year-old also shined in his only 2012 encounter with the Rockies, fanning a career-best 12 batters in six shutout innings in a 10-0 Diamondbacks' victory June 5 at Chase Field. Kennedy is 2-0 with an outstanding 1.75 earned run average over his last six starts against Colorado.
For his career, Kennedy sports a 2-1 record and a 2.77 ERA in nine starts versus the Rockies.
Sanchez, meanwhile, returns to a division he's very familiar with after a forgettable stint with the Kansas City Royals that ended when the hard- throwing lefty was traded to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie on Friday in a swap of badly struggling hurlers. He spent his first six major league seasons with NL West member San Francisco and won a career-high 13 games during the Giants' run to the 2010 World Series title.
The 29-year-old was dealt to the Royals this past offseason in a trade that brought All-Star outfielder Melky Cabrera to San Francisco, but wasn't able to adjust to his new surroundings. Before being designated for assignment last week, Sanchez went 1-6 with a brutal 7.76 ERA and walked a staggering 44 batters in 53 1/3 innings, and was blasted for seven runs in only 1 1/3 innings against Seattle this past Monday in his final appearance with Kansas City.
"It surprised me coming to the West Coast again," Sanchez told the Rockies' official site following the trade. "I feel good coming here. I know the hitters. I hope things go better."
Sanchez does have some previous success against the Diamondbacks, having amassed a 7-6 record with a 4.57 ERA in 19 career appearances (16 starts) during his time with the Giants.
Colorado comes in having dropped four of its last five tests after Sunday's 3-2 setback in San Diego, with the Padres' Will Venable breaking a 2-2 tie with a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Rockies starter Christian Friedrich was decent in a five-inning no-decision, allowing a pair of runs on three hits while walking three. D.J. LeMahieu paced Colorado at the plate with two hits in three at-bats, including an RBI double in the second inning.
These teams have split eight prior meetings this season, with the Diamondbacks taking two of three bouts in a series at Chase Field back in June. The Rockies are just 5-16 in Arizona since the start of the 2010 campaign, however.