Posted July 12, 2012 on AP on Fox
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.

Short supply of Upton trade partners

It's hard to know exactly what to make of Kevin Towers' calculus regarding Justin Upton. Towers has clearly taken the "situation" beyond the rumor stage by talking openly about his willingness to listen to offers for the closest thing the Diamondbacks have to a superstar. For the media, such candor is a refreshing and dramatic departure from 99 percent of what...

Bauer to stay in rotation; Collmenter to bullpen

CHICAGO -- The Diamondbacks on Friday finalized their starting rotation for the second half of the season, with rookie Trevor Bauer keeping a spot and Josh Collmenter returning to the bullpen to make room for Joe Saunders. D-backs manager Kirk Gibson announced the decision before the opener of a series with the Cubs. "We just think it's the way to go," Gibson said...

Diamondbacks’ Justin Upton Is On The Trading Block

Arizona Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers says the team is still in “win mode” and is dangling 24-year-old outfielder and general all-around good player Justin Upton out there, but he apparently only wants players in return who will help the Major League club, not prospects. You know, because Upton still IS a prospect at this point. Upton is hitting .273 with a with...

D-backs look to start second half on high note

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...

D-backs exit break with momentum, questions

The Diamondbacks recovered so nicely in the final weekend of the pre-All Star Game schedule that it's easy to see them carrying that momentum into another September stretch drive. Winning three straight from the NL West-leading Dodgers represented a big step forward, and it came at just the right time. By shaving three games off the division lead in less than 72 hours to conclude...

The Children Are The Future-Cubs Minor League Update Sponsored by Chevy Volt

Iowa Brett Jackson got a hit, stole his 21st base, walked 3 times annnddddd struck out. Josh Vitters was 2-4 with a walk of his own. Remember each walk Vitters gets for the rest of the year is groundbreaking stuff for him. edit by mb21: I watched this game last night (Omaha Storm Chasers are shown on TV here) and the defense was pathetic. They made 4 errors, forgot how many outs...

Cubs 3B Stewart has wrist surgery

Chicago Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart has undergone surgery on his left wrist and is expected to miss at least 4-6 weeks. A team spokesman says doctors in Cleveland cleaned up the area and removed a small bone. The wrist will be immobilized for two weeks. The team will decide in late August whether he will be able to play again this season. Stewart, acquired in the offseason...

Insulting Ian Stewart (@IAN_STEWART_9) on Twitter?- yeah, that’s a class act

I know that sometimes as baseball fans, we get caught up in the heat of the moment and we shout profanities sometimes at baseball players, umpires and even baseball executives. But after a few moments of reflection we understand that we're wrong and that we shouldn't have done that. After all, no player, umpire or team executive makes a mistake on purpose. We're all human...

Chicago Cubs sign 2nd rounder; list of signed draft picks

The Chicago Cubs signed right-handed pitcher Duane Underwood, their second round selection (67th pick overall) in the 2012 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.  Underwood, from Pope High School in Georgia, will report to Mesa. Overall in 2012, the Cubs signed each of their first 20 picks and 29 players overall selected in the draft. Underwood, who turns 18 a week from...

Cubs 8, Diamondbacks 1

Alfonso Soriano homered twice, doubled twice and had five RBIs Friday as the Chicago Cubs beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-1 in a game whose start was delayed nearly four hours by rain. Soriano hit a solo homer in the fourth inning and a three-run shot in the fifth off Ian Kennedy and added a run-scoring double in the seventh off Brad Ziegler. Even though it wasn't raining at...

Generation Next: Top Five First Basemen 25 and Under

Yesterday, we took a look at the top five catchers that are 25 and under. You will notice that we will see some of the same teams involved. Often times, those teams are not yet competitive, but they have bright futures. It always depends on which players live up to the massive potential and which ones don’t. 1. Anthony Rizzo– Chicago Cubs (23) Last season, Rizzo...
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