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.
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.
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.
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.
It seems that there is nothing like a visit to the West Coast to get the Diamondbacks back on track on the road.
The D-backs were 7-3 on their 10-game road trip to San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles that concluded Sunday, sweeping three games from the Giants and taking two of three from San Diego before splitting with the Dodgers, their top rival in the NL West.
It was the D-backs' first winning road trip since April, when they took three out of five games on a short visit to Los Angeles and San Diego.
"It was kind of a gut check," outfielder Conor Jackson said. "We knew we had to turn it up. We knew this is when we picked it up last year."
The D-backs are 15-6 on the road in the NL West while going 29-15 against the West overall, tied for the most victories by any NL team in its division.
The D-backs have 28 games remaining within the West, 15 on the road and 13 at Chase Field.
The D-backs were 11-24 on the road between their two visits to the West Coast, winning two series, splitting two and losing seven.
DODGERS 9, DIAMONDBACKS 3: LHP Doug Davis lasted only 1 2/3 innings Sunday in the first start after retiring the first 20 he faced in San Diego last Tuesday, his shortest outing of the season. He gave up two of Dodgers' OF Manny Ramirez's four hits, an RBI-single in the first and an RBI-double in the second. SS Stephen Drew had three hits, including his 13th home run of the season, setting a career high. OF Conor Jackson had an 11-game hitting streak broken.
--LHP Doug Davis had his shortest outing of the season Sunday, giving up five runs in 1 2/3 innings, in his first start since retiring the first 20 batters he faced at San Diego last Tuesday. "This game is humbling," Davis said. "It's weird how good you can be and how (lousy) you can be. You're on Cloud 9. Then you're below the ground. You don't feel like you did your job."
--SS Stephen Drew hit his career-high 13th home run Sunday while hitting safely in 18 of his last 20 games, raising his batting 23 percentage points to .276. Since being moved to the leadoff spot July 12, he had hit safely in 16 of 18 games and is hitting .301 in the leadoff spot this season.
--LHP Doug Slaten (right knee sprain) is to begin a rehab assignment Monday for Class AAA Tucson, where he is expected to make two appearances before returning to the D-backs, perhaps as early as this weekend. "I want to get back to helping this team," said Slaten, who is limiting left-handed hitters to a .222 batting average.
--OF Justin Upton (left oblique strain) took a rehab day off Sunday and is expected to begin taking batting practice when the D-backs return to Chase Field this week. Upton has been out since July 9. "We haven't had any setbacks," manager Bob Melvin said. "(On) certain days it's a little bit sore. We could use him."
--OF Alex Romero, the left-handed hitting part of the Diamondbacks' right field platoon, has hit safely in his last eight starts after singling in the second inning Sunday. He had his first two career stolen bases on the D-backs' 10-game road trip.
--C Miguel Montero hit his first home run of the season Saturday, in his 123rd at-bat. "It took me a long time, but I finally got it," Montero said. Montero had 10 homers in 214 at-bats last season, the third-best ratio on the team behind 1B Tony Clark and OF Chris Young.
BY THE NUMBERS: 312 -- Walks given up by the Diamondbacks' pitching staff, the lowest total in the National League.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I get really frustrated when I walk guys. A lot of times, a big inning starts with a walk. I've been pretty aggressive. I like to challenge guys." -- RHP Dan Haren, who has only 24 walks this season and who leads the NL with a ratio of 5.6 strikeouts per walk.