The Arizona Diamondbacks are one of the biggest surprises this
season, and pitching is a major reason.
Ian Kennedy is emerging as a vital contributor.
Kennedy looks to keep the Diamondbacks rolling while setting a
franchise record by shutting down the Washington Nationals for a
third consecutive meeting Sunday.
Arizona (33-26) finished at the bottom of the NL West in each of
the last two seasons, but the club is the surprise division leader
with a one-half game advantage on San Francisco, the reigning World
The Diamondbacks have vaulted to the top of the West due to an
18-4 run that includes a 3.08 ERA.
That stellar pitching has been on display in this four-game
series, as Arizona has won the last two games via shutouts after
falling 6-1 in the opener Thursday. Joe Saunders, David Hernandez
and J.J. Putz held the Nationals (25-33) to four hits in Saturday’s
“It’s huge when they’re picking us up when we’re not getting a
lot of offense,” said shortstop Stephen Drew, who has two hits and
four RBIs in the last two games. “At the same time, we’re getting
timely hitting with the RBIs.”
Kennedy (6-2, 3.16 ERA) will try to continue the Diamondbacks’
impressive run as the team seeks a franchise-record third
consecutive shutout. It would be the first time Washington has been
blanked in three straight contests since April 13-15, 2004, when
they were the Montreal Expos.
Kennedy is a strong candidate to shut down the Nationals again
since he’s 5-1 with a 2.15 ERA over his last nine starts. However,
that defeat came in his latest trip to the mound Tuesday, when he
allowed three runs in five innings of a 5-2 loss to Florida.
The right-hander is also 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts
versus the Nationals.
Washington has dropped 10 of 12 on the road while batting .190
in those defeats and going 8 for 66 with runners in scoring
position. The team’s .231 season average is among the lowest in
baseball and has undermined the staff’s 3.73 ERA, an improvement
from last seasons’ 4.13.
“To me, it’s about the good pitching in general – we are not
winning ballgames when we pitched so well,” manager Jim Riggleman
said. “Everybody feels that on the club. Myself right on down to
the coaches and player all feel terrible about the way we have
squandered some chances to win ballgames when we pitch this
Riggleman turns to Jason Marquis (6-2, 4.13), who’s received
more run support on average than any pitcher in the NL at 6.98.
The right-hander got plenty of backing in Tuesday’s 10-2 win
over Philadelphia, as he allowed two runs and eight hits in 6 1-3
“Any time runs are on the board, you can relax a little bit,”
Marquis said. “It allows those mistakes not to be as noticed.”
Marquis is 0-4 with a 4.78 ERA in seven starts at Arizona, and
0-4 with a 7.86 ERA in the last five overall against the