One of the most surprising teams this season, Arizona sits atop the National League West. After losing three straight to the Philadelphia Phillies, many are questioning if the brief skid could portend an extended slide.
Arizona manager Torey Lovullo made the case for his team's sustained success.
"We're very diverse, and we can do it with a lot of different players," Lovullo said. "You look up there and you have a lot of different players with an over .800 OPS, and that's not by accident. They're just good players, and they're growing and learning and accepting the coaching every single day."
Arizona is facing a Cleveland team that lost two of three to the San Diego Padres to begin the week. David Fry doubled and hit a three-run homer to help the Guardians avoid a sweep with an 8-6 win on Thursday
The homer was Fry's first in the major leagues.
"To be able to salvage one right there is big," said Cleveland pitcher Logan Allen, who started that game and gave up five runs in three innings.
"We've been playing well, so I think this is a good momentum builder going into Arizona."
First baseman Josh Naylor has 18 RBIs during his 14-game hitting streak for the Guardians, who are making their first trip to Chase Field since 2017
Arizona will send right-hander Zac Gallen (7-2, 3.09 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He was 7-1 in his prior 11 starts before struggling with an early start time in last Sunday's no-decision against the Detroit Tigers, allowing five runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings.
"That was just a weird game," Gallen said. "I hadn't pitched in seven days, so I had two bullpens and I might have overtaxed myself, but the worst part was the starting time. That's 8:30 for us on the West Coast, and I'm not sure any of us were completely awake."
Naylor is hitless in eight at-bats against Gallen, who earned the win in his only previous start versus the Guardians on Aug. 2, 2022. He gave up three runs over 5 2/3 innings in the D-backs' 6-3 victory
Cleveland will counter with right-hander Triston McKenzie (0-1, 4.50), who is looking to bounce back after allowing five runs over five innings in a 6-4 loss to the Houston Astros last Saturday.
McKenzie was making his second start of the season after giving up one hit and striking out 10 batters over five innings against the Minnesota Twins on June 4. He missed the beginning of the season with a muscle strain in his shoulder.
McKenzie took the loss in his only previous start against Arizona on Aug. 2, 2022, when he yielded five runs (four earned) over six innings.
Cleveland outfielder Steven Kwan was held out of the starting lineup for just the second time this season on Thursday. He is hitting .212 (11-for-52) in 13 games this month.
"I thought he needed a day off," Guardians manager Terry Francona said. "We talked about doing it in the last homestand. He's a hard guy to give a day off to because he leads off. But I just thought he really could use it.
Kwan entered Thursday's game in the seventh inning and grounded out in his only plate appearance.
--Field Level Media