With no wins to his name since June 1 and Trevor Cahill's return fast approaching, D-backs right-hander Ian Kennedy might be in need of a couple strong outings. But that's been easier said than done against the Rays lately.
Kennedy has given up five or more runs in three of his last four outings, pushing his ERA to 5.22 on the year, and he has yet to pitch more than seven innings all season. His next challenge will be taming Tampa Bay, which is 21-4 this month, on Tuesday night at Tropicana Field.
The Cubs beat up on Kennedy in his last start, scoring six runs -- only two of them earned -- on six hits. Kennedy, who didn't factor into the decision, struck out seven but needed 92 pitches to get through five innings.
"It's all about pitch execution," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "He started out pretty good, but then he made some mistakes -- they hammered them. He was unable to stop it, I'm not sure why. One run is fine, but multiple runs is tough."
The D-backs' schedule is about to get pretty tough, too. After going 4-6 over a 10-game stretch against teams with sub-.500 records, Arizona is about to face teams with a winning record in 18 of its next 21 games. That starts Tuesday with the Rays, who have been hotter than anybody in baseball over the past month.
Tampa Bay will start right-hander Roberto Hernandez in the opener of this two-game series. Hernandez has been the weak link in the Rays' rotation amid this torrid stretch they're on. The Rays are 25-2 in the last 27 games started by David Price, Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Chris Archer. Price held the Red Sox to one run on two hits over 7 1/3 innings in Monday's 2-1 win.
Those four had thrown six or more innings in all but two of those starts, combining to go 21-1 with a 1.65 ERA. Hernandez, meanwhile, sits at 5-11 with a 4.92 ERA this season. With the Rays considering a four-man rotation after Wednesday's game, there might be some pressure on Hernandez.
"They've been pretty good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They've been pretty good. And again, Roberto, I know people have been pretty critical of him, but he's also pitched very well, too.
"The other guys, Archie, David, Matty and Helly, that's been over the top a little bit. The other part of it is [Alex Cobb] is getting well, which also bleeds into it and makes it more interesting. But it's something we're considering, but we haven't decided on that yet."
D-backs: Gibson weighing DH options
Arizona's next six games will be on the road in American League cities, meaning Gibson will get a chance to write a designated hitter into each day's lineup. Rather than set one specific player as the designated hitter for the entire road swing, it appears Gibson will use a rotation that allows some reserves to start and a few everyday players to rest a bit.
"We can get some guys in off the bench as the DH. It'll help. It should add offense to your team," Gibson said. "We have a lot of different ways we can go. I don't have my lineups made out yet, but [Jason] Kubel, [Eric] Chavez, maybe I'll give [Paul Goldschmidt] a DH day to get him off his feet. We'll put some thoughts into it."
• Cahill (right hip) is scheduled to start and throw about 80 pitches Tuesday for Triple-A Reno in Oklahoma City. He made his first Minor League rehab start Thursday in the Arizona League, and Gibson said he wasn't sure how many more outings Cahill will need before returning to the D-backs' rotation. Cahill has been on the disabled list since July 1.
Rays: Crain joins bullpen
Tampa Bay acquired reliever Jesse Crain from the White Sox on Monday. The All-Star right-hander has posted a 0.74 ERA in 38 appearances this season, but has been sidelined by a right shoulder strain since the end of June.
"We feel like when healthy, Jesse is among the best relief pitchers in the game," said general manager Andrew Friedman. "As far as prognosis, we don't really know, in that we haven't had a chance to put our hands on him. It's too early to speculate on exactly when, but again, with our training staff and everything we've learned about Jesse, we're confident he will come back and impact this team."
• Since rookie right fielder Wil Myers was called up, the Rays have gone 27-10, including 24-10 in games started by Myers. The right fielder is batting .328 with seven homers and 27 RBIs in 34 games.
• The last AL team to have two pitchers throw complete games and allow two hits or fewer in the same week was the 1992 Orioles (Mike Mussina and Ben McDonald). The Rays matched the feat this week with Archer and Moore.
• In five career starts against the Rays, Kennedy is 1-3 with a 6.66 ERA.