Pennant Precursor? 

As division leaders in tight races, the Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks both are trying to avoid too much scoreboard watching - but it may be getting harder for them not to.

The NL West-leading Diamondbacks (73-57) and NL Central-best Cubs (66-62) close out their series Sunday after splitting the first two contests.

Arizona won 3-1 on Saturday after the Cubs' 6-2 victory on Friday. Conor Jackson hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning and Justin Upton added an RBI double in the seventh for the Diamondbacks, who also received a solid start from Doug Davis.

With the win, Arizona restored its two-game lead over San Diego after the Padres defeated Philadelphia earlier in the evening.

"We've got our eye on the scoreboard watching San Diego," said Davis, who allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, "so every game is important for us right now."

The win was only the Diamondbacks' second in the last six games. Arizona is still 23-9 since July 21, however.

Despite the loss the Cubs didn't lose any ground to Milwaukee after the Brewers lost 6-2 in San Francisco. Chicago, which scored its only run Saturday on Aramis Ramirez's RBI single in the sixth, is 1 1/2 games ahead of the Brewers in the NL Central.

"As long as we continue to play well we don't have to worry about anything," Chicago manager Lou Piniella said. "If we don't play well, it doesn't matter what anybody else does."

Sunday's game marks the finale of a six-game road trip for the Cubs. They return home to open a 10-game homestand on Tuesday, beginning with a three-game series against the Brewers - the final time Chicago and Milwaukee are scheduled to meet in the regular season.

Arizona, meanwhile, will begin a four-game set with the Padres on Monday.

Oddsmakers from have made Chicago -125 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 59% of bets for this game have been placed on Chicago -125 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The Diamondbacks will send Yusmeiro Petit (2-4, 5.14 ERA) to the mound to make his second start since being called up from Triple-A Tucson last Sunday. Petit allowed a season-high six runs and seven hits - including three homers - in 3 2-3 innings of a 6-2 loss to Atlanta in his eighth overall start this year.

The right-hander made his first career start against the Cubs on July 22, when he recorded his last win. He pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits while striking out five in the 3-0 victory.

Manager Bob Melvin told the Diamondbacks' official Web site that the fifth spot in the rotation had not been solidified, placing extra pressure on Petit.

Jason Marquis (10-7, 4.12) counters for the Cubs. He pitched seven innings on Tuesday against the Giants, allowing one run and three hits with five strikeouts, but Chicago scored all its runs in the ninth en route to a 5-1 win.

Marquis threw 25 of his 112 pitches in the first inning, when he gave up his only run of the game.

"I was trying to be too fine and just missing was able to make an adjustment," Marquis told the Cubs' official Web site. "(Catcher Jason Kendall) came out and calmed me down a little bit."

The right-hander is 2-3 with a 2.77 ERA in seven starts and one relief appearance against the Diamondbacks. He allowed two runs and four hits in 7 2-3 innings on July 20 against them in a 6-2 win.

by: Dave Michaels - – Email Us

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