After finishing fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting and leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to the NL West crown a year ago, Ian Kennedy has had a rough first half.
A start against the San Diego Padres might be just what he needs to regain his swagger.
Kennedy looks to continue his dominance over the suddenly surging Padres and help the Diamondbacks avoid being swept at home by San Diego for the first time in Wednesday night's finale.
Kennedy (6-7, 4.20 ERA) ended last season tied with Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw for the league lead with 21 wins, with three of those victories coming over the Padres. Overall, he's won his last six starts in the series while boasting a 1.77 ERA with 53 strikeouts over 40 2-3 innings.
He made his second start of this season at Petco Park, allowing a run and five hits while striking out nine in six innings of a 3-1 victory on April 12.
Kennedy enters this outing having alternated good and bad performances in his last five outings. The right-hander is coming off one of his better showings, yielding three runs - one earned - and six hits while striking out seven in seven innings of a 9-3 win at Milwaukee on Friday.
The Padres (32-50) are the majors' lowest-scoring team with 288 runs, but they're plating an average of 6.3 during a season-best four-game winning streak. In Tuesday's 9-5 victory over the Diamondbacks (39-41), Chase Headley doubled in three runs and Yonder Alonso hit a two-run homer for San Diego, which had lost 10 of 12 in Arizona prior to Monday and has never swept a series in Phoenix.
"Overall it's been a factor of better team defense, better pitching and more timely hitting,'' manager Bud Black said, "and a little less shuffling of the deck so to speak, getting a little better feeling of our players.''
While the Padres are starting to turn things around, the Diamondbacks have lost four in a row for the first time since a five-game skid from May 5-9.
They combined for five runs during the first three games of their current slide before equaling that mark Tuesday. Jason Kubel hit his eighth career grand slam and Paul Goldschmidt matched his career best with four hits.
Goldschmidt is 10 for 17 with three doubles and five RBIs in his last five games, raising his average 22 points to .308.
He and the rest of the Diamondbacks could have better luck offensively in the finale against Jason Marquis (3-8, 5.83), who gave up six runs and six hits over six innings in Friday's 10-2 loss at Colorado, the fifth time in eight starts he's surrendered at least five runs.
Although Marquis hasn't pitched particularly well lately, he hasn't had much help from his offense. In nine starts since the beginning of May, Marquis has received nine total runs of support. The Padres have lost eight of those games.
The right-hander is 0-4 with a 6.54 ERA in his last six starts against the Diamondbacks.