What was once considered a strength for the D-backs, their starting rotation, has often been left thin and exposed at times this season.
But on Saturday, the D-backs' staff will get one-fifth of its Opening Day rotation back as Trevor Cahill makes his first start since landing on the disabled list July 1 with a right hip contusion.
The D-backs were counting on Cahill early, but the righty stumbled in the 17 starts before his stint on the DL, amassing a 4.66 ERA. Cahill is winless in his last eight starts, taking losses in six.
"He's got good stuff. We need him to throw the ball good and be consistent and go deeper in games for us, and to have our rotation kind of solidified," manager Kirk Gibson said. "That's what we're hoping will happen, because we've had a lot of guys come in and out, and it's what you have to do, but it makes it tough as well."
The right-hander used his time on the DL to tweak his mechanics in an effort to improve his command, and he will have an opportunity to prove if it paid off against a Pirates team hungry for wins. Pittsburgh returned home Friday from a 1-5 road trip and took a 6-2 victory over the D-backs.
"We played five very competitive games against a team [Colorado] that is very confident in its park and a playoff-caliber team from last year [St. Louis Cardinals]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "So the experience -- the opportunity, even the missed opportunities, sharpens you and keeps you hungry and tells you there's more work to do."
The Pirates' return to PNC Park won't last long, however: The three-game series is sandwiched between road trips of six and seven games, with the latter beginning Monday in San Diego.
"I guess you can almost look at it like a 17-day road trip, with the quick turnaround," Hurdle said. "But it's still good to sleep in your own bed a while, put on the whites and play in front of the home fans."
The Bucs will send Jeff Locke to the mound against Cahill. Locke is searching for win No. 10. He allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Rockies his last time out, marking his 11th start with three or fewer hits allowed.
Pirates: Rookie Lambo likely back in the lineup Saturday
After starting his first three big league games against the Cardinals this week, Andrew Lambo spent Friday on the bench, but the rookie outfielder is likely to be back in the lineup Saturday against the D-backs.
"There's an aggressive swing there," Hurdle said. "A lot of power. And a pretty good eye at the plate -- although we've encouraged him to stay aggressive in the strike zone. We'll continue to look for opportunities to maximize that here."
Lambo went 1-for-8 with an RBI in St. Louis, registering his first Major League hit Thursday with a fifth-inning double to deep center field.
D-backs: Gibson employing more defensive shifts
Gibson has taken a page from other managers' play books and is going to more defensive shifts this year than in years past.
"Last year, we talked quite a bit about it," Gibson said. "Why do people shift? What do they see that we don't see? We're looking at the same spray charts? We're trying to study it more and more and try to understand. We get all these charts. Even these umpires charts. What do they mean? What do the spray charts mean? I think we've been much better at defensive alignments. Our infield shifts, our outfield alignment has been moving around a lot more."
• The D-backs entered this series fresh off a three-game sweep of the Orioles that featured three walk-off wins. Arizona leads the Majors with 26 wins on its last at-bat and is second in the National League in comeback wins with 35, trailing only the Braves, who have 38 such wins.
• With a 6-2 win Friday, the Pirates improved to 25-2 at home when Andrew McCutchen gets two or more hits and to 33-4 when he scores.
• Pittsburgh and Arizona played in five walk-off games this week. The D-backs won three in a row against the Orioles, while the Pirates fell victim to two walk-off hits by the Cardinals.
• The D-backs lead the Majors in wild pitches thrown (46).
"Cahill and Ian [Kennedy] were a lot of them," Gibson said. "You're set up on the left-hand side of the plate and they just yank one. It's hard to get over there. We've had a lot of 58, 59-foot fastballs. That's tough. Cahill yanks his changeup quite a bit. There's nothing you can do."
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.