The Arizona Diamondbacks are currently the best team in a mediocre NL West. They'll try to reverse some of their struggles against the NL Central as they open a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday to begin a week-long homestand.
The Diamondbacks went 7-3 on a recently completed 10-game road trip against NL West rivals, but they also failed to create some much-needed separation from the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arizona (57-54) settled for a split of its four-game series with Los Angeles, including a 9-3 defeat Sunday that reduced its lead to one game."Obviously, after you win the first two you want to take at least one of the last two," manager Bob Melvin told the Diamondbacks' official Web site. "We did have a successful road trip, but it's a little disappointing after winning the first two that we couldn't pull out one of the last two games."Arizona -- trying to improve on a 9-14 record against teams from the Central -- now turns its attention to Pittsburgh (51-60).Dan Haren (11-5, 2.62 ERA) will try to start the homestand on a positive note for the Diamondbacks as he bids to win his fourth consecutive start. The right-hander won his last three starts of July, conceding five runs in those outings while striking out 22 in 22 innings.Additionally, Haren has not allowed more than three runs in any of his last 11 starts, dropping his ERA more than one full run in that span. He gave up three runs -- two in the first inning before settling down -- in seven innings of a 7-3 victory at San Diego on Wednesday.He is 2-0 with a 2.96 ERA in four lifetime starts against Pittsburgh. He did not get a decision on June 7, when he allowed three runs in seven innings of a 4-3 victory over the Pirates.Pittsburgh (51-60) opened its 10-game road trip by dropping the final two games of a three-game series with the Central-leading Cubs, including an 8-5 defeat Sunday. The Pirates rallied to tie the game at 5 in the eighth inning, only to see Sean Burnett allow back-to-back homers to Reed Johnson and Alfonso Soriano.Rookie Yoslan Herrera (1-1, 9.00) makes his fifth major league start, hoping to find the comfort zone that eluded him in his previous outing. The Cuban right-hander yielded four runs and six hits with four walks in five innings Tuesday before leaving without a decision in Pittsburgh's 6-4 win over Colorado."He got us to the point where he could get us to the bullpen," Pirates manager John Russell told the team's official Web site. "He started to get more consistent, especially with his fastball."Herrera's best start came July 24, when he scattered six hits and a walk in six scoreless innings of a 9-1 victory over San Diego.Second baseman Freddy Sanchez likely will return to Pittsburgh's starting lineup after making a pinch-hit appearance Sunday. Sanchez, who has been sidelined with back spasms, is a .356 lifetime hitter against the Diamondbacks.