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Maholm fans six over 8 1/3 scoreless innings

The Cubs are hoping to continue their hot play after the All-Star break.

The D-backs are trying to make a second-half push to win consecutive National League West titles.

The two clubs return to the field with goals in mind Friday, when they open the season's second half with a three-game series at Wrigley Field.

For the Cubs, it's a welcome homestand after they played 23 of their last 35 games on the road. The beginning of the second half is a bit more travel friendly for Chicago, which has two six-game homestands mixed in with two six-game road trips after the break.

Chicago, winners in nine of its last 13 games, sends left-hander Paul Maholm to the mound in the second-half opener. Maholm closed the first half strong, winning his final two starts, including tossing 8 1/3 shutout innings against the Astros.

"We hit some balls hard, we hit some balls well, we had some base hits against him," Braves outfielder Jason Heyward said of Maholm after that effort. "We put him in some situations where he had to make pitches, and it seemed like he made them. Tip your hat to him."

Prior to his two wins, Maholm was roughed up by the D-backs on June 23, lasting only 3 1/3 innings, and the left-hander is winless in six career starts against Arizona.

Right-hander Ian Kennedy takes the mound for the D-backs, who sit in third place in the NL West behind the Dodgers and Giants. Kennedy, who lasted only 4 1/3 innings against the Cubs on June 23, worked seven innings in his final first-half start against the Padres, allowing four runs on nine hits.

"I felt like tonight was a battle to get through," Kennedy said after that outing. "They are tough outs, not one of them is easy. They have a pretty good lineup, it's a bunch of scrappy guys that put together good at-bats. I think their win-loss numbers are deceiving."

D-backs: Kubel does it all
• The D-backs signed outfielder Jason Kubel for his offense, which he's provided, entering Sunday with 60 RBIs. But he's also proven to be a big addition in the outfield, where he has 11 assists.

"I always thought of him more from his offensive side," manager Kirk Gibson said. "I think everybody did. I can tell you I don't think we evaluated his arm as good as it's been."

• The D-backs bullpen is 3-2 with five saves, a 2.14 ERA (13 earned runs in 54 2/3 innnings pitched) with 22 walks and 55 strikeouts in 16 games since June 22.

Cubs: Soriano to get more rest
• Manager Dale Sveum said he plans on giving outfielder Alfonso Soriano a few more days off in the second half. The 36-year-old Soriano struggled at the end of the first half, going 4-for-23 on the club's last road trip.

"His presence in the lineup -- we know he's streaky -- but his presence brings a lot," Sveum said Sunday. "He's played pretty dang good defense out there. I've got to find a few more spots to give him days off."

• David DeJesus' next run scored will be the 600th of his career, while Soriano's next extra-base hit will the 800th of his career.

Worth noting
• Soriano is the lone Cubs player to homer off Kennedy.

• Maholm has a 5.34 ERA against the D-backs in his career.

• Kubel is a .444 (4-for-9) career hitter against Maholm with one home run.

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