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Toss up: NLCS too close to call

Toss up: NLCS too close to call

PHOENIX -- Which team is the underdog in this evenly matched National League Championship Series?

Even the players are hard pressed to figure it out.

"I'm not sure if we're the underdog or the overdog," Arizona first baseman Conor Jackson said. "I guess it depends on who you talk to. We know this team, we know what we're getting ourselves into, this is nothing new. This is a team we've played like 30 times this year, including Spring Training, so it's not like ... it's just a bigger game, I'll put it like that.

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"I'm not saying it's a Spring Training game, but it's along that caliber because of the familiarity. We know this team, we know what they can do and it's to go to the World Series. So, obviously it's big in that regard, but from knowing the team it's just another game."

Everything about this series cries toss up:

• Arizona won the division, but Colorado was only a half-game back.

• Arizona is 53-31 all-time against Colorado at Chase Field, but 4-5 this year.

• Colorado has won 17 of 18, but the one loss came against Arizona and ace Brandon Webb, who also snapped the Rockies' franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

• Colorado scored more runs, but Arizona had a much better record in one-run games.

• The Rockies won the season series, 10-8, posting 5-4 marks at Chase Field and Denver's Coors Field. Colorado won six of the final eight meetings.

• Oddsmakers picked the Rockies as the series favorite, but the Diamondbacks and Webb are the pick in Game 1.

About the only consensus we can come up with is neither side believes the series will be a sweep, despite both the Rockies and Diamondbacks posting sweeps to get here.

"We played each other tough during the season, and I expect it will be the same in this series," Colorado left fielder Matt Holliday said. "These are two evenly matched teams in my opinion."

With no reason to believe things will be drastically different from the regular season -- then again, this is baseball and anything can happen -- the difference in this series could come down to one thing.

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"Execution," Jackson said. "We know they're going to score runs, we know they're on a little bit of a roll, to say the least. But I think the four days off probably helped us more than it helped them, [and] if we go out and play our game and execute, we're going to be there.

"We know these guys, we hang out in Spring Training all the time. These are our good buddies over there. Don't get me wrong, we want to beat them, there would be no better feeling to beat them, because next February and March there's going to be some bragging rights. It's going to be a fun series, because we know all these guys, we know everything about them. When I go up there to hit, I know what I'm going to get, it's just whether I hit it or not."

If the form holds, the Rockies would appear to have a slight advantage based on their play against the Diamondbacks this season.

Consider just a few of the individual numbers:

Rockies-D-backs Tale of the Tape
2007 regular season statistics
COL
CATEGORY
ARZ
.280
AVG
.250
.354
OBP
.321
.276
AVG RISP
.249
860
Runs Scored
712
171
HR
171
100
SB
109
31
CS
24
.989
Fielding %
.983
68
Errors
108
4.32
ERA
4.13
3.85
Bullpen ERA
3.95
39
Saves
51
19
Blown Saves
15
90
Wins
90
19
One-run wins
32

• Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe hit .352 (19-for-54) with a team-high three homers and 18 RBIs in 17 games against the Diamondbacks.

• Colorado first baseman Todd Helton batted .375 (24-for-64) with a team-high 16 walks.

• Holliday hit .361 (26-for-72) with 13 RBIs, and outfielder Ryan Spilborghs hit .353 (6-for-17).

• Rockies infielder Jamey Carroll batted .368 (7-for-19) and scored a team-high 11 runs.

• Rockies reliever Brian Fuentes went 1-0 with four saves in 9 2/3 scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks this season.

• Webb stopped their streak, but overall he was 1-3 with a 5.77 ERA in six starts against the Rockies this season.

• The Rockies hit .343 against Arizona's Doug Davis, .287 against Webb and .290 against closer Jose Valverde.

• The Diamondbacks put the clamps on Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki .209 (14-for-67), and right-hander Livan Hernandez was 1-0 with a 1.54 ERA in five starts against Colorado this year.

"We are very respectful of the Diamondbacks organization," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "They've accomplished some very heady things in a short period of time. We're not in awe of them by any means, we're respectful of them, and they have been probably as good a definition as you want to come up with about being a baseball team as anybody that's playing now will ask for teams.

"They find ways to win games. The staple of starting pitching. The health and continued success of their bullpen. Different bats showing up during the course of the season. They play a pretty good defensive game themselves."

Defense, an area the Rockies appear to have the edge. But that still doesn't make it any easier to pick the winner.

"It's two teams that nobody knows about playing, right? Isn't that the headline?" Jackson said. "But you know what, one of those teams [is] going to the World Series."

That is probably the only sure thing about this matchup.

Jim Molony 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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{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }