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Notes: Upton heats up at the plate

Notes: Upton heats up at the plate

CHICAGO -- Could Justin Upton be ready to break out at the plate again?

It certainly seems possible, given the way he looked at the plate in Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Thursday night.

Upton, 20, showed good patience at the plate as he drew two walks and laid off some tough sliders. In addition, he was the only hitter to square up Chicago reliever Kerry Wood when he laced a single to left in the seventh inning.

"That's a good game for him to have," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said.

Upton, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, was promoted from Double-A to the big leagues at age 19 in August. After a hot start, he cooled as pitchers began to throw him more and more offspeed pitches.

It was similar to what happened to third baseman Mark Reynolds earlier this year when he was called up from Double-A. Reynolds adjusted to the way the pitchers were working him and it appears Upton might be doing likewise.

"I think for younger guys, sometimes you'll see that confidence escalate when they do something right," Melvin said. "You could kind of see his confidence elevate yesterday and it's good to see, because the guy that was here early on was playing with a lot of confidence. It seems like he's starting to get through this and you can tell just by the look on his face that he's starting to get more and more confident."

Almost the same: Melvin will make a slight tweak to his lineup for Friday's Game 3, inserting catcher Miguel Montero in place of Chris Snyder.

Montero has been behind the plate for all 33 of Livan Hernandez's starts this year, and Melvin didn't want to change things up in the playoffs.

"It's more comfortable for the pitcher," Melvin said. "And with what they've been through together, it tends to be a little more seamless when you have some experience."

The fact that Cubs starter Rich Hill is a left-hander wasn't a factor, since the lefty swinging Montero actually hit better (.286 to .218) against lefties this year.

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The lineup will be as follows: Chris Young (CF), Stephen Drew (SS), Eric Brynes (LF), Conor Jackson (1B), Reynolds (3B), Upton (RF), Augie Ojeda (2B), Montero (C) and Hernandez (P).

Easy does it: The D-backs hold a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series, but they aren't taking anything for granted.

"There's still a lot of work ahead for us, and we've just got to go out there and keep grinding," Snyder said. "That's been the way we've done it all season. You know pitch-by-pitch, at-bat to at-bat, day-to-day."

Since Wild Card play began in 1995, 27 teams have held a 2-0 lead in a best-of-five Division Series and only four wound up losing and 18 went on to sweep the series. All four of the teams that lost were American League teams -- the 1995 Yankees, 1999 Indians and the 2001 and 2003 A's.


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But should the Cubs win Game 3, they have their ace Carlos Zambrano set to start Game 4, so you'd have to like their chances in that game. That would tie the series at 2-2 and send it back to Arizona for a Game 5 on Tuesday.

"At this point in time, anything can happen," Snyder said. "Like I said, there's still a lot of work to do and some good arms that we have to face."

Welcome back, now stop hitting: D-backs second baseman Ojeda played parts of four seasons for the Cubs from 2000-2003, and he's been a thorn in their side this series.

Ojeda had a pair of hits in Game 1 and followed that up with another two-hit performance Thursday.

The 33-year-old stepped into a starting role toward the end of the season after Orlando Hudson underwent season-ending surgery on his right thumb. Despite filling in for a team leader and key contributor, Ojeda said he did not feel any added pressure.

"This is a baseball game," he said. "It's a game where it's meant to be fun. Go out there and enjoy the game. I just try to be prepared and be ready. It was exciting for me. Pennant race, great manager, great teammates and just go out there and just try to play my game, stay within myself and help the team win somehow."

Welcome to the jungle: The D-backs, who landed in Chicago around 6 a.m. CT on Friday morning, know they'll be stepping into a hornet's nest at Wrigley Field on Saturday night.

"We're excited about going to Chicago," Eric Byrnes said following Game 2. "It's my favorite place to play. I'm sure they'll be real excited to see us when we get there."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["division_series" ] }
{"content":["division_series" ] }