Diamondbacks-Cubs Preview

After years of rebuilding, the Chicago Cubs signaled their readiness to pursue a playoff berth by signing Jon Lester to a lucrative deal in December.

Lester will try to contribute to the Cubs' stretch run Friday night when he faces Arizona Diamondbacks lineup that likely won't have Paul Goldschmidt.

Lester was given the largest contract in Cubs history at $155 million for six years, and has reinforced that faith more often than not. He's allowed two earned runs or fewer while pitching at least six innings in 15 of his 26 starts.

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The left-hander has also had inconsistent results in his past three. Lester (8-10, 3.59 ERA) was tagged for seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in a 15-8 loss to Detroit on Aug. 19 but yielded one run in 8 2-3 innings five days later in a 2-1 win over Cleveland.

Though Lester was denied a fourth win in six starts Saturday when the Dodgers reached him for four seventh-inning runs in a 5-2 loss, he remained upbeat.

"The good thing is, I don't have to go back to the drawing board," Lester said. "My stuff was there. Location was there, stuff was there, velocity was there. Everything was there.

"Now it's a matter of a little bit of luck going my way and maybe the outcome is a little different."

Despite losing six of eight, Chicago (75-57) still holds a sizable lead over San Francisco for the NL's second wild card.

The Cubs will try to maintain that advantage by sending Arizona (65-69) to a ninth defeat in 12 contests. The Diamondbacks, who have won six of their last eight on the road, split the first four of their current seven-game trek after a 9-4 loss Wednesday to Colorado.

Goldschmidt missed that game to be with his wife for the birth of their first child and is not expected to return until Saturday. The first baseman, batting .322 with 27 homers and 97 RBIs, batted .179 in his last seven games before leaving but is a .383 hitter in 22 career games against the Cubs.

"I think this is a great situation where he can get everything off his mind and he can come back fresh," manager Chip Hale told MLB's official website.

Zack Godley, meanwhile, is expected to return to the majors to face the team that drafted him in the 10th round in 2013. The right-hander was acquired by Arizona on Dec. 9 in a deal that sent Miguel Montero to the Cubs.

Godley (4-0, 1.90) joined Chase Anderson as the only two Diamondbacks pitchers to win their first four decisions, pitching 3 2-3 innings of one-run relief Aug. 22 in an 11-7 win over Cincinnati.

Anderson won his first five starts last season.

Godley will face a team that's averaged 6.5 runs in its last 11 home games, but Chicago dropped two of three to last-place Cincinnati to begin a six-game stay at Wrigley Field.

It's unclear if Kyle Schwarber will be available. The rookie was scratched before Wednesday's 7-4 loss because of soreness in his right ribs, one day after going 2 for 3 with a winning two-run homer.

Jorge Soler, 6 for 13 with three doubles in a three-game series in Arizona in May, is on the disabled list with a strained oblique.

Lester gave up two runs in seven innings in a 5-4, 13-inning loss to the Diamondbacks on May 22.