Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 7/12/12
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs had their issues during the season's first half, though both have reasons for optimism after finishing strong before the break. Ian Kennedy looks to guide Arizona to a fourth straight victory while Chicago rookie phenom Anthony Rizzo tries to stay hot in the opener of a three-game series Friday at Wrigley Field. The defending NL West champion Diamondbacks (42-43) blame inconsistency for their four-game division deficit. After sweeping the Cubs in a three-game set June 22-24, Arizona lost eight of its next 10 to drop four games below .500. It recovered to take three of four from the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers before the All-Star break to close the gap. "We've had good stretches this year; we played good in June," manager Kirk Gibson told the team's official website. "We've had tough stretches. You just have to continue to power on. What choice do we have? It's been a struggle. "We've endured a lot and we're in good shape going into the second half." Gibson said it's disappointing Arizona has gotten off to a rough start coming off a division title, but his team's confidence still is high. "We know we can go on a run, we have in the past," Gibson said. "We've made it harder on ourselves, let's be realistic, but we still believe." Rizzo has given the Cubs plenty of reason to believe the future is bright. Since being called up from Triple-A Iowa on June 26, Rizzo is hitting .354 with four homers and four doubles with Chicago going 8-4 in those 12 contests. The Cubs (33-52) possess one of the worst records in baseball in their first season rebuilding under Theo Epstein's regime, but Rizzo has provided a pick-me-up. Chicago ended the first half with a 7-0 win over the New York Mets on Sunday. "(Rizzo) has changed everything," Alfonso Soriano told the team's official website. "Batting third, hitting homers, defense - I hope the way he plays and the way we play, I hope we continue that way in the second half." The Cubs have won five of the last six meetings with the Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field, a pattern Kennedy will be out to change. Kennedy (6-7, 4.26 ERA) is 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA over his last five starts after giving up four runs in seven innings of Arizona's 8-6 loss to San Diego on July 4, though he's gone at least seven innings in three of his last four starts. The only outing he failed to do so was against the Cubs on June 23, when he allowed five runs and 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings of the Diamondbacks' 10-5 victory. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 6.66 ERA in four career starts versus Chicago, and he'll face Paul Maholm, who's looking for a third straight strong outing. Maholm (6-6, 4.57) capped a rough seven-start stretch in which he went 0-4 with a 6.50 ERA by giving up seven runs in 3 1-3 innings while opposing Kennedy, but he's been much better since. The left-hander allowed four hits in 8 1-3 innings to beat Houston 4-0 on June 29, then gave up one run in six innings of a 5-1 win over Atlanta on July 4. He also pitched an inning of relief Sunday. The Cubs, though, have lost four straight and six of the last eight overall meetings with the Diamondbacks.
MORE FROM YARDBARKER:
Most strikeouts by a hitter in a single season
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Report: A 2015 investigation led to Kevin Wilson’s departure from Indiana

Houston denies report that Art Briles is candidate for coaching position

Draymond Green defends himself again after kicking Harden

WATCH: Video of Pirates Jung Ho Kang car crash that led to arrest

Rob Gronkowski placed on IR, ending his season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Everything you need to know for CFB Championship Week

Steve Kerr admits using marijuana to treat chronic back pain

WATCH: Huskies, Buffaloes go back-to-back with amazing plays

Rolando McClain suspended indefinitely by NFL

Helfrich, Kelly spoke about possibility of Kelly returning to Oregon

Paul Maurice: Game plans won’t work trying to stop McDavid

Best of Yardbarker: CFB Championship Week chaos

Five teams on upset alert in NFL Week 13

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL sweaters)

New faces help Spurs continue unparalleled success

The Pirates prepare for rarely chartered waters in dealing Andrew McCutchen

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Box Score 12/2: High-kicking it into the weekend

Jeff Fisher is the unkillable cockroach of NFL head coaches

Four teams to keep an eye on at the 2017 Winter Meetings

Eugene Monroe opens up about NFL’s drug policy

Ideal MLB offseason blueprint for every team

Eight NFL teams facing must-win games in Week 13

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Sporting life: Gifts for real fans (that aren't ugly NFL Christmas sweaters)

New faces help Spurs continue unparalleled success

The Pirates prepare for rarely chartered waters in dealing Andrew McCutchen

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

Everything you need to know for CFB Championship Week

Jeff Fisher is the unkillable cockroach of NFL head coaches

Four teams to keep an eye on at the 2017 Winter Meetings

Porzingis reshapes Knicks by elevating his game

TailGreater: Your championship week playlist is set

Clarification: Why the rules near the crease need to be fixed

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker