Clayton Kershaw (12-8) vs. Ian Kennedy (12-11)
Aaron Harang (9-8) vs. Trevor Cahill (10-11)
After winning four out of seven on their last road trip against the Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants, the Diamondbacks went into San Diego and promptly pulled a repeat of a common narrative for them this season: playing like hot garbage against the San Diego Padres. They lost two of three games at Petco Park, giving up 19 runs and in the process relegating themselves more and more into also-rans in the NL West.
Now, they are facing a Dodgers squad that is pushing the panic button in their attempts to catch the Giants in the West. After acquiring a slew of high priced talent in Hanley Ramirez, Josh Beckett, and Adrian Gonzalez, the Dodgers still find themselves five games out of first place with only 21 games left to be played. They do have a little bit of time left, but their hopes are certainly dwindling as September rolls on.
For the Diamondbacks, the key for them in this series is going to be getting good outings out of two guys who haven’t lived up to their expectations this season: Ian Kennedy and Trevor Cahill. Kennedy has been abysmally bad at home this season, racking up a 5.19 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP, and giving up 40 earned runs in 69 1/3rd innings at Chase Field. His last start at home on August 29th was an emphatic reminder of this point, as he gave up three long balls and walked four batters in a 9-3 loss. He did bounce back nicely against these Dodgers however out in Los Angeles, but he is going to have to recapture that form if he’s going to be successful tonight.
As for Cahill, he had a similar lack of success in his last home start as well. He only made it through 3 2/3rds innings against the Padres, giving up eight hits and four runs while walking three batters. He had to throw 88 pitches to get those eight outs, and that has been the part of a larger narrative of his struggles in Phoenix. He has walked 28 batters in 76 innings pitched in Arizona this year, with a 5.33 ERA and a horrendous 1.58 WHIP to show for his troubles. He has pitched respectably against the Dodgers this year, with a 2.92 ERA and 20 strikeouts, but people questioning whether that will be enough to carry the day Wednesday are justified in their questioning.
It’s the opportunity to play the role of spoiler that needs to motivate this team. Finishing the season with a flourish will not only have an impact on the NL West race, but it will also build some confidence in a team that is left shaking their heads after a tumultuous 2012 campaign. Getting guys back like Daniel Hudson will help next year, but some serious changes could be in the offing as well, and going into 2013 with some positive momentum could only be viewed as a good thing moving forward.
It all starts with this game tonight against the Dodgers. It’s put up or shut up time for the Diamondbacks.