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NL West Battle in Colorado

A prolific offense sent the Colorado Rockies on their remarkable run to the World Series last year, while an uncanny ability to win close games propelled the Arizona Diamondbacks to a surprising NL West title.

Neither team looked the same in its opening series of 2008.

Both the Rockies and Diamondbacks will seek to avoid three-game losing streaks when they begin a three-game set Friday in Denver, as the teams meet for the first time since Colorado swept Arizona in the NL championship series.

Both were young teams that surpassed expectations in 2007.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Colorado -129 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 10.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 76% of bets for this game have been placed on Colorado -129 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

While the Diamondbacks captured the division, Colorado finished second but claimed an even bigger reward, as the franchise's first NL championship came at the expense of Arizona. The pennant will be raised at Coors Field this weekend.

"I think it's a bona fide rivalry now," Diamondbacks outfielder Eric Byrnes told the Rockies' official Web site. "I think it will be one as long as the teams continue to play good baseball."

For both teams, that's been a struggle so far this season.

Last year, the Rockies scored more than six runs per game in winning 21 of 22 - including playoffs - before getting swept by Boston in the World Series.

But they managed just five runs in three games this week, including a 3-0 loss at St. Louis on Thursday. The Rockies (1-2) struck out nine times for the second straight game and left seven runners on base after stranding nine in an 8-3 loss Wednesday.

One year after finishing second in NL MVP voting, Matt Holliday has started 1-for-10.

"They pitched me tough the first couple of days and today I got myself out a couple times," Holliday said Thursday. "I just wasn't swinging very well."

The Diamondbacks (1-2), meanwhile, went 32-20 in one-run games last year, finishing 90-72 and sweeping the Chicago Cubs in the NL division series despite being outscored for the season and hitting an NL-worst .250.

But they dropped a pair of one-run games in Cincinnati this week, blowing a ninth-inning lead on Wednesday in a 6-5 loss before getting dominated by Reds rookie pitcher Johnny Cueto in a 3-2 defeat on Thursday.

Arizona had only one hit - Justin Upton's home run - as Cueto struck out 10 in seven innings, while Diamondbacks pitchers struggled with control.

"You're not going to win many games with one hit and walking nine guys," Arizona manager Bob Melvin told the team's official Web site.

Colorado's Mark Redman will try to hold down the Diamondbacks on Friday, while Arizona will counter with Micah Owings.

"It seems like forever that we've been in St. Louis," Redman said. "It's a long time away from Coors Field and we'll be excited to get back in our own surroundings and with our own fans."

Redman (2-4, 7.62 ERA), who joined the Rockies off waivers last August, went 1-0 with a 3.77 ERA in three September starts, with the win coming against the Diamondbacks. He allowed an unearned run and struck out six in five innings of an 11-1 victory on Sept. 29.

Redman started 2007 in Atlanta's rotation, but lost his first four decisions, went to the disabled list and was released.

Owings (8-8, 4.30) never faced the Rockies in the regular season as a rookie in 2007, but took the loss in Denver in Game 4 of the NLCS, allowing six runs - two earned - in the fourth inning as Colorado completed the sweep with a 6-4 win. Holliday was 2-for-2 with a three-run homer against him.

Including last year's playoff series, the Rockies have won six in a row and 10 of 12 against the Diamondbacks.

"They haven't (outplayed us). Not even close," Byrnes said. "If anything, I think it's the other way around. They've had a little luck go their way. Definitely the ball has bounced in their direction. But as we've seen before in this game, luck can change real quick."

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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