Dangerous Diamondbacks

The Chicago Cubs have been outhomered by pitchers 1-0 in their last three games. Turning around that deficit might not be easy against Micah Owings.

Coming off the best game at the plate by a pitcher this season, Owings looks to extend the Cubs' power drought when he leads the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opener of a three-game series Friday night.

Chicago (65-61) has won five of seven - its pitching staff has a 3.00 ERA in that span - but only has a half-game lead over Milwaukee in the NL Central.

In Thursday's 4-1 loss to San Francisco, Giants pitcher Matt Cain hit his second career home run while the Cubs went homerless for a third straight game since hitting three in a loss to St. Louis on Monday.

This series with NL West-leading Arizona (72-56) will begin against Owings (6-6, 4.70 ERA), who has been baseball's best-hitting pitcher this season.

Owings went 4-for-5 with two homers and six RBIs on Saturday night while allowing three runs and striking out seven in seven innings to beat Atlanta 12-6. He became the first pitcher to have six RBIs in a game since Philadelphia's Robert Person had seven on June 2, 2002, and the first to hit two homers in a game since Florida's Dontrelle Willis did it on Sept. 20.

"We knew he could pitch, and we knew he could hit a little, too," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.

The rookie right-hander is batting .273 and leads all major league pitchers with three home runs and 11 RBIs.

All three hits he allowed Saturday were solo homers, but that came in Atlanta. Owings has not surrendered a home run in any of his last four starts at home, and has given up just five in 66 2-3 innings at Chase Field this season.

Owings' first career appearance against the Cubs was in Chicago on July 21, needing 95 pitches to get through four innings as he gave up two runs and four hits in a 3-2 Diamondbacks win.

Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made Chicago -115 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 71% of bets for this game have been placed on Arizona +102 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Arizona, having scored just nine runs in its last four games, could use a boost at the plate from Owings. The Diamondbacks went hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position Wednesday, but beat Milwaukee 3-2 to salvage the finale of a three-game set.

Chicago, meanwhile, tried to upgrade its bench by acquiring outfielder Craig Monroe from Detroit on Thursday for a player to be named. Despite hitting only .222 before the Tigers designated him for assignment last Friday, Monroe was productive against left-handed pitching and that's how Cubs manager Lou Piniella plans to use him.

"I think he'll be a nice addition," Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee said. "He has postseason experience so he'll be acclimated to these tight games coming down the stretch. It's just another good addition."

Monroe is batting .302 with five homers and 22 RBIs in 96 at-bats against lefties.

The Cubs will start a southpaw Friday as they give the ball to Sean Marshall (6-6, 4.21 ERA), coming off his first win in four starts this month. He allowed two runs and five hits in five innings to beat St. Louis 5-3 on Saturday.

His first career start against the Diamondbacks was on July 22, surrendering one run and five hits in six innings of a 3-0 Cubs loss.

The Diamondbacks won two of three games against the Cubs in that series. Chicago has lost four straight in Arizona since a 16-6 win on April 4, 2005.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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