D-backs return home to take on struggling Cubs

The Cubs are in the headlines again in late July, but for them, that only means that they have salable commodities available to contending teams at the trade deadline.

Last season it was right-hander Ryan Dempster, who vetoed a trade to Atlanta and was sent to Texas as a two-month stretch rental. This year the hot item is right-hander Matt Garza, and the Rangers again are among the top suitors, although reports indicated that they back out of a deal Friday because of health concerns. Garza could help any team in need of a starting pitcher, and San Francisco, Boston and Toronto also are believed to be in the running. Garza will be a free agent this winter, however, when his price will go through the roof, so like Dempster he could be a two-month rental.

The D-backs have been linked in reports to younger Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who is in a different class inasmuch as he has two years left of arbitration (and thus team control) before becoming a free agent. Closer Kevin Gregg and outfielder Nate Schierholtz also are generating interest. Alfonso Soriano is available, but he is owed $18 million in 2014, not a strong selling point.

PITCHING MATCHUPS: Monday — RHP Matt Garza (6-1, 3.17 ERA) vs LHP Skaggs (2-1, 4.03). Tuesday — LHP Trevor Wood (6-6, 2.79) vs. LHP Patrick Corbin (11-1, 2.35). Wednesday — RHP Jeff Samardzija (6-9, 3.91) vs. Ian Kennedy (3-7, 5.29). Thursday — RHP Carlos Villanueva (2-6, 4.16) vs. LHP Wade Miley (6-7, 4.03).

WHO’S HOT FOR THE DIAMONDBACKS: Miguel Montero has hit safely in five of his last seven games while raising his batting average to .229, the highest it has been since April 18. … Martin Prado has 12 hits and six RBIs in his last nine games. … Paul Goldschmidt is 18 for 50 (.360) with nine RBIs since July 4. … Brad Ziegler has converted all four of his save opportunities since July 4. … Will Harris has given up two earned runs in his last 21 2/3 innings, a 0.83 ERA.

WHO’S NOT HOT FOR THE DIAMONDBACKS: Ian Kennedy will be looking for his first victory in nine starts when he faces the Cubs on Wednesday. The good news? His last victory came in a quality start art Wrigley Field on June 1. … Gerardo Parra has two hits and no RBIs in his last 31 at-bats. He has played in 10 straight games, starting eight.

WHO’S HOT FOR THE CUBS: Shortstop Starlin Castro has 13 hits in his last 30 at-bats after a four-hit game in a loss to the Rockies on Sunday. … First baseman Anthony Rizzo, who signed a seven-year, $41 million contract extension last month, is 10 for 34 with two homers and seven RBIs in his last nine games. … Second baseman Darwin Barney is 8 for 19 with a homer and six RBIs in his last six games. … Outfielder Dave Sappelt has 10 hits in his last 24 at-bats while playing mostly in platoon situations, a streak that began shortly after his latest recall in early July. … Gregg has converted 18 of his 20 save opportunities.

WHO’S NOT HOT FOR THE CUBS: Alfonso Soriano has six hits in his last 32 at-bats, although two of the hits were bases-empty home runs. … Left-hander Jeff Russell has six blown saves, the most in the NL, although that number is a little deceiving inasmuch as all have come in his setup role.

NOTES, QUOTES, ODDS AND ENDS: Starting with the seven-game homestand against the Cubs and Padres, the Diamondbacks play 34 of their final 64 game at Chase Field, where they are 27-20. … The D-backs have scored eight runs more than their opponents this season. The only other team in the NL West that has outscored its foes is Colorado, which is a plus-six. The D-backs won the West in 2007 despite being outscored by 20 runs, 732-712. … Soriano, who tried to win the 2001 World Series for the Yankees with his eighth-inning home run in Game 7 at Chase Field before the D-backs rallied in the ninth, is hitting .325 with 11 doubles, 14 homers, 41 RBIs and a 1.140 OPS in 43 career games against the D-backs. Soriano is 6 for 13 with three homers and seven RBIs off Kennedy and is 2 for 5 with two homers and three RBIs off Miley. … Montero is hitting .417 in 12 at-bats against Garza and .500 in six at-bats against Samardzija. … Castro is only 23, but some still question his baseball IQ. His WAR (wins above replacement player) is -0.8, which ranked 159th among the 160 major league players ranked by FanGraphs. … Barney’s remarkable 140-game errorless streak was broken in the Cubs’ last visit to Chase Field. With Aaron Hill on second base in the eighth inning of the D-backs’ 8-3 victory last Sept. 28, Barney fielded Justin Upton’s ground ball up the middle and threw high to first base. Upton beat the play for a single, but when Rizzo could not handle the throw, Hill scored on what was ruled a throwing error on Barney, who otherwise would have broken Placido Polanco’s errorless streak as a second baseman. Barney did win the NL Gold Glove, though, with just two errors at second for the season.