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10/03/2007 10:13:00 AM

NLDS: Diamondbacks vs. Cubs, Game 1

By Gennaro Filice

With the supposed dominance of the American League this season and all the buzz surrounding the late-charging Rockies and Phillies, the Arizona-Chicago series seems to be the least-hyped of the bunch. So here's a quick, easy-to-digest primer.

Three things to know about the D-Backs:

1. They shouldn't really be here. On the season Arizona actually allowed 20 more runs than it scored, making it the only playoff team with a negative run differential. (Seattle was the only other team in the majors with a negative run differential that even managed a winning record.) The D-Backs were able to make up for this discrepancy with an MLB-best 32-20 record in one-run games. Simply put, Bob Melvin's been making all the right decisions all year long. Which explains how Arizona overcame another disadvantage ...

2. The Diamondbacks' new colors may officially be Sedona red, Sonoran sand and black, but this team is awfully green. This roster is chock-full of youth. When the series opens tonight the Diamondbacks will start five players under 27 years old (Stephen Drew, Mark Reynolds, Jeff Salazar, Chris Snyder and Chris Young), and that doesn't even include 20-year-old Justin Upton and 25-year-old Conor Jackson, both of whom will start against left-handed pitching.

3. Brandon Webb actually pitched better this year than during last year's Cy Young campaign. Despite the fact that he won't repeat last year's hardware haul -- Jake Peavy has the Cy Young in the bag -- Webb improved on his numbers in most categories, including wins (18 to 16), ERA (3.01 to 3.10) and strikeouts (194 to 178). Not to mention that little stretch of 42 scoreless innings.

Three things to know about the Cubbies:

1. The Cubs can club ... at least lately. The Cubs struggled to hit home runs all year long -- hitting 106 in the season's first five months -- but in September they lived by the longball. During the season's final month Chicago hit a club-record 45 jacks. Alfonso Soriano led the charge with 14.

2. Thanks to Jamey Carroll and the Rockies, Chicago enters the postseason with the Senior Circuit's best pitching staff. With San Diego out of the picture, Chicago boasts the best staff still alive in the National League. The Cubs finished the season with the fourth-lowest team ERA (4.04) in the bigs. Depth is an issue for Arizona, while Philadelphia and Colorado lack much pitching at all.

3. Ryan Dempster's not as bad a closer as it looks. From the surface, Dempster (2-7, 4.73 ERA) looks like an October disaster waiting to happen. But the 30-year-old has converted a respectable 28 of 31 save opportunities this season. Many of Dempster's worst blowups during the regular season came in situations when the game wasn't on the line. Dempster's a closer of the Todd Jones mold -- he may post some ugly numbers, but (at least thus far this season) he gets the job done.

  • The Arizona Republic breaks down the "10 memorable moments that helped shape the D-Backs' run to the postseason."

  • In his blog, Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa talks about waiting for the postseason to begin.

  • With right-hander Carlos Zambrano on the hill for Chicago, the D-Backs will opt for Tony Clark at first base and Jeff Salazar in right field.

  • Over the last few years, a number of young players have come out of nowhere and helped guide their team to a world title, including Adam Wainwright, Bobby Jenks, Miguel Cabrera and Francisco Rodriguez. Chicago boasts a prime candidate to mirror these accomplishments: catcher Geovany Soto.

  • AZ Sports Hub writes an open letter to the Diamondbacks fans, who haven't been too supportive this season.

  • With October baseball for the first time since 2003, Wrigleyville should provide a pretty electric atmosphere.

  • According to the prognosticators, the D-backs don't stand much of a chance in this series. Bleed Cubbie Blue discusses a number of predictions.
  • Labels:

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