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NLCS breakdown: D-backs

NLCS breakdown: D-backs

Maybe now the Arizona Diamondbacks can truly enjoy a home-field advantage.

Expect the crowds at Chase Field to be a little more pro-Arizona for the National League Championship Series -- unlike the audiences for the Division Series, which included thousands of transplanted, displaced or migratory Chicago Cubs fans. Not that it mattered, since the D-backs won both home games on their way to sweeping Chicago.

Still, playing before partisan gatherings should only help the D-backs as they begin the NLCS at home, where they posted a 50-31 regular-season record.

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Capitalizing on friendly environs will be critical for Arizona, given Colorado's own home excellence. The Rockies were 51-31 at Coors Field, where they hit .298 and scored 478 runs, both league-leading figures. The D-backs ranked last in the NL with a .241 road average and 326 runs.

Trying to determine who owns the advantage in the NLCS based on regular-season matchups won't bear much fruit. Colorado won the season series 10-8, while outscoring Arizona, 86-72. But the D-backs had an easier time generating runs, outhomering Colorado, 14-9. Twelve of the games were decided by two runs or less, with each team winning six.

Key late-game matchup
D-backs closer Jose Valverde must step up his game against the Rockies' top hitters. Todd Helton is 6-for-9 off Valverde; Matt Holliday has gone 2-for-4. Also, D-backs hitters are just 3-for-36 lifetime against Rockies closer Manny Corpas.

D-backs Secret Weapon


Clark
Don't hold Tony Clark back against Colorado. He has four homers and 13 RBIs in just 31 at-bats against the Rockies this year.

D-backs Achilles' heel
Shorten the game just a little. Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon have been excellent setup men, but the "bridge" to the ninth inning can be weakened if the D-backs have to accelerate their bullpen timetable by calling on them earlier than usual.

D-backs manager: Bob Melvin
If Melvin isn't everybody's NL Manager of the Year choice, he's high on the list. Always cool, he can be counted on to make tough decisions under pressure.

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D-backs intangibles
The D-backs have defied statistics and the experts all year by thriving despite being outscored overall. Why should anything change now?

Three reasons the D-backs will win
• Home-field advantage. It's only a one-game edge, but it could make the difference.

• The southpaw factor. Arizona was 28-17 against left-handed starters in the regular season, which could negate the effectiveness of Colorado ace Jeff Francis. The Rockies were 20-24 against lefties, so expect Doug Davis of the D-backs to get his chances to start.

• The tight squeeze fits. Arizona was 32-20 in one-run games in the regular season, compared to Colorado's 18-19. This will help the D-backs throughout the postseason, when games are close more often than not.

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

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