10/07/07 1:03 PM ET
It's a Wild West showdown in NLCS
Rockies and D-backs are familiar foes from the NL West
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
"They know us well and we know them well," Colorado ace Jeff Francis said of the Arizona Diamondbacks. "I think it's going to be a great series and probably one that will go longer than four games."
The two National League West teams swept through their respective NL Division Series in three games and now are on a collision course for a showdown in the desert. Game 1 in the best-of-seven NLCS is scheduled for Thursday at Chase Field in Arizona.
On Saturday, the West champion Diamondbacks eliminated the NL Central champion Chicago Cubs while the Wild Card Rockies dispatched the NL East champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Now these young guns will draw down on each other in an NLCS that matches two of the hottest teams in baseball.
"They're a good team, and we know we're good," Francis said. "We've lost one game in the last three weeks."
That one loss during Colorado's current 17-1 run was against Arizona ace Brandon Webb and the Diamondbacks. Webb is expected to start Thursday's opener against Francis.
This will be Colorado's first trip to the NLCS. The Diamondbacks have been once before, when they had home-field advantage in 2001 and eliminated Atlanta in five games.
The Rockies took the season series from the Diamondbacks, 10-8, with wins in three of the last four meetings and six of the last eight. The Rockies were 5-4 against Arizona at both Coors Field and Chase Field.
The Rockies hit 30 points better than the Diamondbacks during the regular season (.280 to .250) and the Diamondbacks finished last in the NL in hitting and 29th among MLB's 30 teams. They also ranked 25th in total bases, 26th in runs and 28th in on-base percentage.
But the Rockies aren't putting much stock in those numbers.
"I think we match up well with each other," Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes said. "They have very good pitching, and everybody talks about their hitting, but you know what? They get the big hits. They're like us, they totally play that day's game."
Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday agreed.
"They had the best record in the league, that's the number that's important," Holliday said. "We know what they're capable of, and believe me, they're a very good team. They're like us, they do what they need to do to win."
The Diamondbacks compiled the best record in the league (90-72) thanks to strong pitching and timely hitting that produced a franchise-record 32-17 record in one-run games. The Diamondbacks are the first time in Major League history to finish with the best record in the league, despite being outscored.
Reigning Cy Young Award winner Webb has been outstanding again this season, and closer Jose Valverde led the league with 47 saves.
Nine Diamondbacks finished the regular season with at least 10 home runs, and outfielders Eric Byrnes and Chris Young paced an offense that capitalized on opportunities more often than not.
"They have a great team, it's going to be a respectful series," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "They're like us in that they rely first on scouting and player development and building from within.
"Two teams with a lot of young players, veterans that have helped them move things along, we've done things the old-fashioned way, showed a lot of patience and it takes courage to have patience. We've both taken our lumps, [but] they've had more success than us in the past and that was always a little rock in our shoe that we've had to wear, so now the opportunity to play them in the NLCS is going to be special."
Jim Molony is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.