Cubs look to avoid the snake bite

After a few days off for the All-Star Break, the Diamondbacks come to town to kick start the second half of the season. Arizona sits at 42-43, but is only four games back of the NL West-leading Dodgers. Vine Line looked at the Kirk Gibson-managed side and broke down some of the key players to watch in the series.

Hitters to watch:

Paul Goldschmidt — While it might not be considered a snub, Goldschmidt was one of the better players not to participate in the All-Star festivities in Kansas City. His .302 average leads the team and is second best among NL first basemen, while his .368 on-base percentage is 13th best in the NL. He also plays solid defense at first. He has committed only three errors, and his .5 UZR is good for fifth in the NL.

Aaron Hill — Hill was another All-Star hopeful who found himself on the outside looking in. He was also the only NL nominee in the All-Star Final Vote not to make the team. But Hill is looking more like the 2009 version of himself, when he hit 36 home runs and drove in 108 for the Blue Jays. This year, he is hitting .300 (second among NL second basemen) with an .860 OPS (on-base plus slugging), highest of all NL second basemen by nearly 80 points.

Pitchers to watch:

Joe Saunders — The Cubs dodge the D-backs’ lone All-Star, Wade Miley, but Saunders has quietly rebounded into the viable starter the Angels hoped he’d be when they drafted him in the first round in ’02. Though he sits at 4-5, he’s put up a solid a 3.44 ERA, his lowest since 2008, when he finished at 3.41. He is not much of a strikeout pitcher, but his 5.9 K/9 is his highest mark since ’06. He’s slated to come off the DL and throw on Saturday, opposite Ryan Dempster.

Brad Ziegler — The Diamondbacks’ bullpen has the fifth best ERA in the NL, and setup man Ziegler is having the best season of Arizona’s bullpen arms. His 2.45 ERA is tops on the team, though he’s not much of a strikeout pitcher either (6.0 K/9). In 33 innings, he hasn’t surrendered a home run and carries a respectable 1.27 WHIP. His four wins out of the bullpen are also best in baseball among relievers.

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