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MIA@ARI: Nuno shuts down Marlins in D-backs' debut

Vidal Nuno was solid in his first two starts after being traded to the D-backs from the Yankees earlier this month.

The left-hander opened his stint in Arizona with seven scoreless innings against the Marlins on July 8. He followed that up by surrendering four earned runs on six hits over five innings at the Giants on July 13, but all four runs came on a grand slam from Buster Posey.

In his third outing for the D-backs on Monday, though, Nuno regressed to his first-half form, surrendering three earned runs on seven hits, including two home runs, without making it through five innings. He looks to rebound Sunday when he faces off against Phillies right-hander Roberto Hernandez in the rubber game at Citizens Bank Park.

"His pitches were up," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said Monday of Nuno, who sports a 5.13 ERA on the season. "He didn't really have much crispness on the corners."

Hernandez has endured similar struggles to Nuno in 2014 with a 4.25 ERA and 4-8 record in 21 appearances, 18 of them starts. The right-hander's biggest issue this year has surrounded his inability to pitch deep into games. In total, he's made it past the sixth inning in just four starts.

In his last outing, Hernandez gave up three earned runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings in Philadelphia's 9-6 loss to the Giants.

D-backs: Ziegler returns to action
Reliever Brad Ziegler took a line drive off the chest in the eighth inning of Tuesday's contest against the Tigers. The right-hander avoided any significant injury on the play, but a nasty bruise along his rib cage left him unavailable for Wednesday.

Despite the pain, Ziegler declared himself ready for Friday's series opener against the Phillies after playing catch earlier in the day. He didn't get an opportunity to pitch in the 9-5 loss, but he returned to action on Saturday when he threw a scoreless bottom of the eighth inning in an eventual 10-6 win for Arizona in 10 innings.

"[My ribs are] sore, and they probably will be for a while, but I'm good to go," Ziegler said Friday. "If it's just a matter of pain tolerance, I'm fine -- I can tolerate almost anything."

Phillies: Howard back in lineup
First baseman Ryan Howard returned to the starting lineup Saturday night against the D-backs after sitting out the previous three games. He went 2-for-5 with two strikeouts in the team's 10-6 home loss.

Manager Ryne Sandberg referred to the time off as a "mental break" for Howard, who is the highest-paid position player in the Majors this season but has experienced a significant statistical drop off at the plate. Before regaining his spot in the lineup on Saturday, Howard's .682 OPS was 207 points below his career average while his .377 slugging percentage was 155 points below his career average.

Nonetheless, Saturday's multi-hit game could be the start of a rejuvenated final stretch of the season for the struggling slugger.

"I think hopefully a little rest, a little regrouping will go a long way with Ryan and allow him to give him some time to think about some adjustments," Sandberg said Saturday. "So going forward, what I would want is for him to be a force in there and help us win games and be a guy chipping in and playing a part in us winning games."

Worth noting
• Since July 8, Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown has hit safely in 10 of 12 games. Comments