MLB Insiders: Arizona Diamondbacks

Brian Burres

The Pirates open a three-game series against Arizona on Friday night at PNC Park. Lefty Brian Burres gets the start for the Bucs. Arizona counters with right-hander Ian Kennedy.

The Arizona Diamondbacks and Pittsburgh Pirates will finish the season at the bottom of their respective division, but Diamondbacks interim manager Kirk Gibson is insisting his team isn't quitting.

Ian Kennedy's recent performances lend credence to that.

Kennedy looks to turn in another dominant outing when Arizona opens a three-game series at the punchless Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.

Kennedy (9-9, 3.87 ERA) has shown that he hasn't given up, going 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last six starts and tossing a career-high 16 consecutive scoreless innings over his last three.

The Pirates will send Brian Burres (3-3, 5.22) to the mound looking for a third consecutive strong start since replacing Jeff Karstens in the rotation.

The left-hander yielded one run and four hits in seven innings Sunday, but didn't get a decision in a 3-1 win at Cincinnati. That performance came six days after he allowed one run in six innings of a 3-1 home win over Atlanta.

Burres is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three home starts this season.

Diamondbacks interim manager Kirk Gibson has steadfastly refused to designate a closer during his three months on the job, not that it seems to matter.

By action, Juan Gutierrez has emerged as the de facto closer, and he picked up another save while preserving a 3-1 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday. Gutierrez has converted seven consecutive save chances since returning from the disabled list Aug. 18, and he has been the only reliever who has been used in ninth-inning save situations.

"It would be outstanding to be named the closer. Everybody wants that," Gutierrez said. "I'm just trying to do a good job and get ready for next year. This is an important month for me. I didn't have a good middle of the season. I want to finish strong."

Gutierrez, 0-6 with nine saves, entered the season as a setup man and even had a save opportunity in the second week of the season, but he struggled mightily along with the rest of the D-backs bullpen. After giving up a walk-off home run to Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp on June 1, Gutierrez had a 10.31 ERA, with 10 homers allowed in 18 1/3 innings.

While he still leads major league relievers with 13 homers allowed, none have come since July 20. Since then, he has given up three runs in 18 innings. After missing the first half of August due to shoulder inflammation, he has given up two runs in 13 1/3 innings.

Gutierrez's ERA, 5.33, has not been lower since April 15, when he completed his fourth straight scoreless appearance to open the season. He gave up a three-run, walk-off homer to San Diego third baseman Chase Headley on April 16, starting his slide.

DIAMONDBACKS 3, REDS 1: RHP Rodrigo Lopez recorded his first victory since the All-Star break, and RHP Juan Gutierrez converted his seventh straight save opportunity since returning from the disabled list as the D-backs salvaged a four-game series split. SS Stephen Drew extended his hitting streak to seven games with an RBI single in a three-run fifth inning, and 2B Kelly Johnson also had an RBI single, one of his three hits. RF Gerardo Parra had two hits and an RBI.

Notes, Quotes

* RHP Rodrigo Lopez made his third consecutive quality start Thursday and finally was rewarded with a victory, his first in 12 starts since the All-Star break. Lopez gave up eight hits but did not walk a batter. He has given up only six runs in his last 19 1/3 innings. "He's fought through a lot," interim manager Kirk Gibson said. "He really worked hard and made some adjustments, and he's got it back." Lopez, 6-14 with a 4.98 ERA, has logged 184 1/3 innings, the most since he had 189 with Baltimore in 2006. He is in line to make three more starts.

* The D-backs struck out nine times while running their season total to 1,373, the second-highest total in major league history. Arizona is 26 strikeouts short of the major league record set by Milwaukee, which struck out 1,399 times in 2001. The D-backs have 85 strikeouts in their last seven games, the worst streak in franchise history.

* RHP Juan Gutierrez has converted all seven of his save opportunities since returning from the disabled list Aug. 18. And while interim manager Kirk Gibson has avoided naming a closer, Gutierrez has been the only reliever called up in the ninth inning with a save opportunity on the line. Gutierrez has given up two runs in his last 13 1/3 innings, and his ERA (5.33) has not been lower since April 16.

* SS Stephen Drew is hitting .356 in his last 21 games with eight doubles, two triples, four homers and 11 RBI. With his RBI infield single Thursday, Drew has hit safely in 18 of those games. He is one of three shortstops—joining Minnesota's Zoilo Versalles and the Mets' Jose Reyes—with three consecutive seasons of double-figure doubles, triples and home runs.

* The D-backs continued their strong stretch play against contenders with a four-game split against Cincinnati that concluded with their win Thursday. They are 11-11 against San Diego (4-2), San Francisco (3-3), Cincinnati (2-2) and Colorado (2-4) since Aug. 20. The D-backs were 2-5 against the Reds this season; they were 4-5 against NL Central rival St. Louis, playing a third series against the Cardinals rather than one more interleague series.

By The Numbers: 28—Pitchers used by the Diamondbacks this season through Sept. 12, a franchise record.

Quote To Note: "I played until I was 38, and I still felt like I had to get better and learn things until the last day I played." —D-backs interim manager Kirk Gibson, on learning the subtleties of the game.

Medical Watch:

* RHP Brandon Webb (right shoulder surgery in August 2009) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was moved to the 60-day DL on April 17. He began throwing bullpen sessions in mid-June, but he cut short a bullpen session July 28. He threw simulated games Aug. 28 and Sept. 3, then threw in the batting cage Sept. 8 and in the bullpen Sept. 11. He hopes to pitch for Arizona before the season ends.

* RHP Kris Benson (right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list April 29, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 30. An MRI showed no structural damage, and he resumed throwing in early May. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Reno on May 24, but he cut it off in mid-June, when he received two cortisone shots. Benson began a new rehab assignment with Reno on July 30, but he was shut down for the season after his Aug. 4 start.

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