10/11/07 8:43 PM ET
Notes: Valverde feeds off vitality
Game 1 sells out, Game 2 approaches; Upton confident
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
The Major League leader in saves, with 47, will beat his chest and motion to the sky at times, which has drawn the ire of some players during the season.
"Some players don't like it, but what are you going to do, that's my game," Valverde said. "I have to do it for my teammates."
Valverde feeds off the adrenaline he gets from being demonstrative, and D-backs manager Bob Melvin has talked with him over the past few years about balancing that against doing it too much or too often.
For Melvin, it's the motivation behind the antics that make it OK for him.
"He's never demonstrative in a negative way," Melvin said. "It's always a positive way, and it's always about him. It's not about showing anybody up. The emotion, to an extent, he needs. We've talked about it over the course of the last couple of years, how much he needs, how much he doesn't, where the fine line is."
Valverde finished all three of the games in the National League Division Series, though only one was technically a save situation, and has seemed to be unfazed by the extra scrutiny that comes with the postseason.
"There was a little pressure the first game against Chicago, but afterward it was just like the regular season," he said. "I'm so excited to be here and pitching."
Much ado about nothing: There was a lot of talk about the D-backs not selling out Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, as there were 12,000 tickets left a few days ago.
But steady ticket sales this week made Game 1 a sellout, and the team was selling standing-room-only tickets close to game time.
There are fewer than 2,000 tickets left for Game 2, and team officials are confident that it too will be a sellout.
"The last series was phenomenal," Melvin said referring to the packed houses for Games 1 and 2 of the NLDS. "[The players] love the atmosphere of our fans being behind us. I think, especially the last couple of weeks, we've felt like our fans have been behind us, and that's mattered."
The D-backs did not sell out Game 1 of the 2001 NLCS, drawing 37,729 fans. They drew 49,334 for Game 2 that year.
Not so fast: Melvin was pretty consistent in the NLDS with his lineup against right-handers and lefties. Switch-hitter Tony Clark played first against righties, and Jeff Salazar got the nod in right.
Against lefties, Conor Jackson started at first and Justin Upton in right.
That held true to form in Game 1 of the NLCS, with Jackson and Upton in the lineup against southpaw Jeff Francis. So with righty Ubaldo Jimenez starting Game 2, that means that Salazar and Clark will be in there.
"It might not be both," Melvin said. "The other matchups were pretty easy tomorrow, whereas tomorrow we'll see. Nothing is for sure. We'll just see."
Playing well: One of the factors for Melvin certainly has to be the way Upton has swung the bat in the postseason. After starting out hot upon his promotion to the big leagues in early August, Upton slumped as pitchers began to get scouting reports on him.
But the 20-year-old hit .600 with three walks in two games during the NLDS and had some quality at-bats.
"He looks a lot more confident than he did for a period there, I think, both in the outfield and at the plate," Melvin said. "It's a credit to him that not only does he look more confident coming out of it, he's doing it in a playoff atmosphere."
Roster rumblings: The D-backs kept the same roster for the NLCS that they used against the Cubs, with 11 pitchers and 14 position players.
"It worked the last time," Melvin said with a smile.
With the decision made to keep 14 position players, the D-backs had to choose between infielders Emilio Bonifacio and Alberto Callaspo. Callaspo got the nod because of his ability to play the outfield.
"With only having one [backup] outfielder, he gives us that, too," Melvin said.
Benefits: With both teams sweeping their first-round series, the D-backs and Rockies had four days off between games.
While most of the players would just as soon not had that kind of layoff, it could be a help for D-backs relievers Tony Pena and Brandon Lyon. Pena appeared in 75 games this year while Lyon logged 73 appearances.
"It's always good when you're looking at mid-70s guys," Melvin said of the break.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.