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.