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SD@ARI: Kennedy fans six over eight stellar frames

A late-August funk has forced the D-backs into a must-win situation nearly every time they take the field over the season's final two weeks.

The D-backs have answered that call of late, as they will go for their third straight victory against the Rockies on Sunday and sixth win in their last seven games overall.

The success over the past week has Arizona (76-75) above .500 for the first time since Aug. 25, but the D-backs still enter Sunday's contest 4 ½ games out of a Wild Card spot. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that they would have to leapfrog the Phillies, Dodgers, Brewers and Cardinals to find their way into the playoffs.

All manager Kirk Gibson's club can do at this point is focus on one game at a time, starting with Sunday when the D-backs will call on staff ace Ian Kennedy.

Despite the team's struggles in the past month, Kennedy has continued to give the D-backs a chance to win each turn through the rotation. He's 3-0 over his last four starts and has allowed just one combined run over 21 2/3 innings in those three victories.

Overall, he's 8-4 with a 3.84 ERA since the All-Star break after going 6-7 with a 4.26 ERA in the season's first half. "He's pitched well," Gibson said. "He's definitely had a better second half. He's been more consistent."

The Rockies will counter with veteran Jeff Francis, who has encountered his own problems with consistency this season. Francis enters Sunday's tilt 0-2 with a 6.23 ERA in four September starts. The left-hander is yet to turn in a sub-5.00 ERA for any single month this season.

The good news for Francis is one of his five wins this season came against the D-backs. Though Francis went 7-2 in his first 14 career starts against Arizona, he had been 0-5 in seven starts against the D-backs since 2008.

He snapped that skid with a 4-2 victory on July 25, allowing just two runs on five hits, while keeping the D-backs guessing for much of the game. Francis will look to notch another victory Sunday, while Arizona will be looking to keep its playoff hopes afloat against the southpaw.

"He threw the ball good," said D-backs catcher Miguel Montero, who had three of Arizona's five hits in that July 25 meeting. "I don't think he left that many balls in the middle. He just kept the ball down and mixed his speeds pretty good and just kept everyone off balance."

D-backs: Kubel snaps hitless streak
Outfielder Jason Kubel logged an RBI single in the first inning of Saturday night's victory to snap an 0-for-23 skid at the plate. He finished the night 2-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

It was a rare treat for Kubel, who is hitting just .199 since the All-Star break after hitting .293 in the first half. On top of the recent struggles, Kubel has seen his playing time reduced lately in favor of rookie outfielder Adam Eaton.

"It's getting better," Kubel said of his approach at the plate. "It's just timing. You're not going to fix that by not playing. It's tough, but like I said there will be times where it will come back and click, just a better feeling. That's just the way it's going right now. We've got a lot of guys here so that's just the way it is."

Rockies: Cuddyer nearing return
Veteran right fielder Michael Cuddyer, on the disabled list since Aug. 19 with an oblique injury, has been progressing nicely and could take on-field batting practice as soon as Monday.

Manager Jim Tracy was cautiously optimistic about Cuddyer's impending return, but also is keeping in mind that Cuddyer played just three games in mid-August after returning from his initial oblique injury before landing on the DL a second time.

"He's getting there, but here we go again -- he was getting there the last time too," Tracy said. "This injury we're talking about is a very tricky one, but he has progressed nicely and has had no setbacks of any kind as of late.

"I can't push that envelope. I can't push him into the pool -- I won't do that."

Worth noting
• Kennedy is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts against the Rockies this season. For his career, he's 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 10 outings.

• D-backs position players are hitting a collective .330 (29-for-88) with six home runs in their careers off Francis. Chris Young and Justin Upton each have two homers, while Montero and Kubel have one apiece.

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