D-backs to meet familiar foe in NLCS
Division-rival Rockies standing in club's path to World Series
PHOENIX -- The D-backs were hoping they'd be able to sneak up on their opponent in the National League Championship Series.
"I hope we continue to fly under the radar," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said. "That's fine with me."
Sorry, Bob, it's not going to happen.
Not only did the D-backs have a coming out party of sorts on a national level by sweeping past the Cubs in the NL Division Series, but their upcoming opponent will be the Colorado Rockies.
And there are no secrets between the D-backs and Rockies.
The two NL West rivals will open the NLCS on Thursday at Chase Field, each knowing full well the other's strengths and weaknesses.
"We couldn't be more familiar with a team," said D-backs general manager Josh Byrnes, himself a former assistant GM in Colorado. "I don't know if that's good or bad."
They'll find out soon enough.
The Rockies and D-backs played each other four times this spring and 18 times during the regular season. The two teams opened and closed the 2007 season against each other at Coors Field.
"That's a solid club right there," first baseman Conor Jackson said. "I think we match up pretty well with them, though. Gosh, we've seen them about 100 times this year it seems like between Spring Training and the regular season. It's not like we don't know what we're going to get."
Right now what they're going to get is a red-hot team. The Rockies closed out the regular season by winning 14 of their final 15 games, including a one-game playoff with the Padres, to earn the NL's Wild Card.
They then swept the Phillies in three games in the NLDS.
Of course, the only team the Rockies have lost to in the last two-plus weeks is the D-backs, who clinched a playoff berth with a 4-2 win in Colorado on Sept. 28.
"They're like a freight train right now," Melvin said. "What they're doing right now offensively, defensively -- that's a great group. They're probably the best club right now in all of baseball."
The D-backs aren't pushovers either. They finished the regular season with 90 wins, the most in the NL, and they swept the Cubs in the NLDS.
"I think we know each other pretty well," D-backs ace Brandon Webb said. "We've played them more than anybody I think. I think we feel confident against those guys because we're playing really well right now, scoring some big runs and getting key homers."
But then again, so are the Rockies, who also received scant national attention this year despite their torrid finish.
"Everybody knows the Rockies can hit," Arizona starter Doug Davis said. "Their whole lineup is filled with .300 hitters and 100-plus RBI guys. So it's going to take good pitching, which I think we have. It's going to take good relief pitching, which I know we have. And the offense will have to come through and score some runs for us."
It's an offense that was led during the NLDS with the Cubs by shortstop Stephen Drew.
Drew struggled during the regular season, hitting just .238, but his bat has come alive in October. He led the D-backs with a .500 average against the Cubs, which included a double, a triple and a pair of homers.
"Stephen Drew, it's his time," injured second baseman Orlando Hudson said. "Going through the season, he struggled a little bit. End of the season, he started to pick it up. Someone asked me who my pick was to step it up in the playoffs, and he was it."
Speaking of picks, when two teams know each other and seem to be evenly matched, who wins?
"It comes down to -- execution is what it comes down to," Melvin said. "Which team executes better."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.