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D-backs' Kennedy picks up 19th victory

Ian Kennedy's first attempt at earning his 20th win of the season didn't go too well. The D-backs' ace gave up four earned runs on seven hits and a walk in six innings Tuesday, taking a no-decision against the Dodgers.

So, Kennedy will reload and go for No. 20 once again on Monday, this time at home against the struggling Pirates -- and with quite a bit on the line in his club's pursuit of the National League West title.

The Giants have reeled off eight straight wins, and with a three-game series in Arizona on the horizon this weekend, the D-backs are looking to maintain or increase their five-game division lead because San Francisco is coming to Phoenix for a head-to-head series on Friday.

"The Giants are en fuego right now," said D-backs right-hander Joe Saunders, who won Sunday's game in San Diego. "It's nice to have the cushion, so we're going to try to keep the cushion."

This is the first time this season Kennedy will face the Pirates, who travel to Arizona reeling after getting swept by the Dodgers in Los Angeles. To make matters worse, the Pirates were outscored, 28-4, and finished up with a 15-1 loss.

"We've got to take individual ownership of our at-bats that are aimed toward the collective game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Speaking about the season as a whole, we have just not been able to be tough when we've needed to be tough on offense. It is the mentality and ownership of an at-bat. We've burned up way too many at-bats this year. We're gonna have a franchise record in strikeouts. Unacceptable."

Kennedy will try to boost that strikeout total on Monday. While Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw appears to be the most likely candidate to win the NL Cy Young Award, Kennedy has firmly established himself as a contender in only his second full Major League season.

The right-hander is 19-4 with a 2.99 ERA after winning seven straight starts from July 8-Aug. 12 and going 11-1 over his past 13 starts, posting a 2.42 ERA over that stretch.

And if Kennedy picks up his 20th win Monday, the milestone would go a long way toward helping the D-backs reach the playoffs.

Pirates: Karstens looking to get back on track
Right-hander Jeff Karstens will make his 26th start of the season Monday. Karstens is having a solid year, going 9-8 with a 3.45 ERA, but he has lost four of his last five decision dating back to July 20.

Karstens has been excellent against Arizona throughout his career, however. He is 1-0 with a 2.01 ERA in six games (two starts) vs. the D-backs and has not allowed a run in two career starts against Arizona. He pitched seven scoreless frames on June 9 but received a no-decision as the Pirates eventually lost, 2-0. His lone win came on Aug. 6, 2008, when he took a perfect game into the eighth inning of a 2-0 victory.

• Pirates general manager Neal Huntington met with reporters at Dodger Stadium and discussed a number of key issues regarding the Pirates this offseason. Among those was the status of Ross Ohlendorf, who will be arbitration-eligible for the second straight season. Huntington said outings like he had Thursday are encouraging in terms of whether the club will tender him a contract.

D-backs: Hill, McDonald acclimating well
Newcomers Aaron Hill and John McDonald, acquired via a trade with the Blue Jays on Aug. 23, are drawing rave reviews for fitting in so well with their new club. Hill went 2-for-5 with an RBI and a run Sunday, and McDonald went 2-for-4. D-backs hitting coach Don Baylor praised them for their seamless transition -- something he dealt with after getting dealt to the first-place Twins in 1987.

"You want to not disrupt anything," Baylor said. "The Twins were a game and a half up when I got there. My thing to [manager] Tom Kelly was, 'I want to keep you there or higher.'"

Utility man Willie Bloomquist also expressed his admiration for McDonald, even though the shortstop has significantly cut into Bloomquist's playing time.

"He's a man after my own heart -- always scrapping for playing time," Bloomquist said.

Worth noting
• The D-backs will play their final nine games at home -- three contests each against the Pirates, Giants and Dodgers.

• The Pirates are 17-30 all-time in Arizona, going 1-2 last year and a 4-12 record since 2006. Their last winning series at Chase Field came when they took three of four from May 5-8, 2005.

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