'Backs Look To Cool Cubs

Even without their top hitter, the Chicago Cubs are having little trouble producing runs lately.

The surging Cubs will try to top the reigning NL Cy Young winner Friday afternoon when they open a three-game set with the Arizona Diamondbacks at Wrigley Field.

Chicago (50-44) comes into this contest having scored 21 runs over its last two games. On Thursday, the Cubs overcame two home runs and six RBIs by Barry Bonds to hold on for a 9-8 victory, which came following their 12-1 win over San Francisco on Wednesday.

Jacque Jones had four of Chicago's 16 hits Thursday, its most since getting 18 against the Rockies on June 25.

Oddsmakers have made Arizona -115 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 8 total runs (Matchup). There is no public betting information available at this time for this contest (View MLB Bet Percentages).

The Cubs' outburst has been without Derrek Lee, who on Thursday served the second of a five-game suspension for his role in a brawl with San Diego on June 16.

Lee's absence, combined with injuries during the game to Cliff Floyd (sore neck) and Daryle Ward (strained right calf), left Chicago with a short bench Thursday.

Ward, who was taking over at first base for Lee, was replaced by Mark DeRosa, while Angel Pagan took over for Floyd in right field. Floyd, who also was experiencing dizziness after hitting the ground following a collision at first base, had just returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing three games with a sore shoulder.

"I don't feel great. I don't feel horrendous, either," Floyd said. "I'm a little upset and at the same time banged up also. ... Right now my neck and my whole left side took a hit. We'll see how it is tomorrow."

Chicago has won six of seven and is 18-5 since June 22. The team is 3 1/2 games behind first-place Milwaukee in the NL Central and six games over .500 for the first time since June 11, 2005, when it was 33-27.

The Cubs will now try to hand Brandon Webb (8-7, 3.42 ERA) his first career loss against them. Webb has won four straight starts against Chicago and has a 2.52 ERA in six starts against the team, with Arizona (50-47) going 4-2 in those outings.

Webb is winless in his last three starts, however, and has allowed four or more runs in four of his last five outings. He gave up four runs and a season-high 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings on Sunday in a 4-0 loss to the Padres.

"Overall, I thought I had pretty good stuff," said Webb, who struck out 10. "There was a lot of broken-bat hits. If I didn't strike them out, I wasn't getting them out."

The right-hander is looking to help the Diamondbacks end their recent slump.

Arizona didn't provide the Cubs with much help in the NL Central race, losing three of four against the Brewers, including Thursday's 10-1 defeat. The Diamondbacks managed just five hits, with their only run coming on Conor Jackson's homer in the seventh.

The loss was Arizona's ninth in the last 12 games and the team is just 6-15 since June 25.

On Friday, the Diamondbacks will face Chicago's Jason Marquis (6-5, 4.03), who is trying to snap out of his own slump. The right-hander is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his last seven starts, and has given up six earned runs in each of his last two outings.

Marquis is 1-3 with a 2.84 ERA in six starts and one relief appearance against Arizona.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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