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Wed, Aug 8, 2012 - 7:05 PM ET
 

Diamondbacks-Pirates Preview

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Ian Kennedy finally appears to be living up to expectations for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Chris Johnson is surely blowing them away.

Kennedy looks to extend his personal winning streak to five games while Johnson attempts to continue his offensive barrage Wednesday night when the Diamondbacks face the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kennedy (10-8, 4.15 ERA) finished fourth in the NL Cy Young voting last year, going 21-4 with a 2.88 ERA while Arizona (56-54) won the NL West. The right-hander, however, has struggled to build on his breakout season in 2012, and that's partly why the Diamondbacks are third in the division, four games behind first-place San Francisco.

Lately, Kennedy is doing his part to change that, winning four starts in a row behind a 2.54 ERA after going 1-3 with a 5.84 ERA over his previous six.

He was solid again Friday, yielding two runs in six innings of a 4-2 win at Philadelphia.

"That's all I ask," manager Kirk Gibson said. "Give us a chance to win the game."

Kennedy is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in three career starts against Pittsburgh, but he allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings of Arizona's 5-4 loss in the most recent one April 17.

While the Diamondbacks have been waiting for Kennedy to get in a groove, Johnson is producing at a pace they couldn't have expected.

The third baseman is 10 for 29 with five homers and 15 RBIs in eight games since being acquired in a trade from Houston on July 29. His home run total matches his output from his final 67 games with the last-place Astros, and he's enjoying being in a pennant race.

"It's a lot of fun to look at the scoreboard and see what this team is doing and what that team is doing," Johnson said. "Every game means something. Every at-bat means something.

"I felt like I could come in here and help out. I'm probably not going to keep producing like I have been for the last week or so but I do think I can help us win."

Johnson certainly did that Tuesday, connecting for a pair of homers while driving in five runs to power a 10-4 win at Pittsburgh (62-47). He was 0 for 3 as Arizona dropped the opener of this four-game set 4-0 a day prior.

The Pirates, 3 1/2 games back of Central-leading Cincinnati but still holding down an NL wild-card spot, have dropped three of five. They're 4 for 34 with runners in scoring position in that stretch.

The bullpen was the biggest problem Tuesday, squandering a lead by surrendering seven runs in the final two innings.

Kevin Correia (8-6, 4.49) is slated to get a spot start Wednesday after being removed from the rotation following the acquisition of Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros last month.

The right-hander was switched to the bullpen despite going 6-0 with a 3.89 ERA in his last seven starts. He's made one relief appearance since, allowing four runs in two innings during a 9-5 loss at Houston on July 29.

Correia is 0-2 with a 13.50 ERA in his past three starts against the Diamondbacks, and he's struggled versus Johnson, who is 3 for 5 with two doubles against him.

Tagged: Pirates, Diamondbacks, Ian Kennedy, Chris Johnson

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