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Notes: Valverde thrives under pressure

Notes: Valverde thrives under pressure

CHICAGO -- Any questions about how D-backs closer Jose Valverde would handle the pressure of his first postseason seem to have been answered with strong performances in the first two games of this National League Division Series.

Valverde saved Arizona's 3-1 win in Game 1 and then closed out an 8-4 decision the following night.

Things did get a little dicey at the end of Game 2, when after he struck out the leadoff man, Valverde gave up a single to Alfonso Soriano. Ryan Theriot then hit what looked to be a game-ending double play, but thanks to an error by Augie Ojeda, the Cubs had runners at first and second with one out.

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Valverde, though, never lost his composure and struck out Nos. 3 and 4 hitters Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

"To be able to respond to that is pretty impressive," Melvin said of the way Valverde put the error behind him. "I think getting through the season and blowing some saves and getting through a season healthy, all those things go a long way towards making him feel more confident in the role that he's in."

With Valverde having gotten plenty of rest down the stretch, Melvin didn't hesitate to go to him in Game 2, even though it wasn't technically a save situation with Arizona up by four runs.

"You throw that out in the postseason," Melvin said of saving a closer for saves only. "A save is a win, period, no matter what the score is."

After the game, Valverde laughed when asked if he was at all bothered by the pressure in the postseason.

"Nah," he said. "I love this."

First taste: Catcher Miguel Montero got his first start of the NLDS in Game 3 with Livan Hernandez on the mound.

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"It's exciting," Montero said. "But I've just got to try and do the same thing and not try and do too much."

"It was a little tough at the beginning," Montero said of catching the veteran. "Because Livo does things different than the other pitchers, but now it's gotten easier."

Encouraging sign: Setup man Tony Pena tossed a scoreless inning of relief in Game 2 and didn't show any signs of trying to overthrow, which he had struggled with at times during the year.

Like with most pitchers, when Pena tries to throw too hard, his mechanics get out of whack.

"He's been able to slow the game down and not let the baserunners and the importance of the game take you out of the game and what you need to do," pitching coach Bryan Price said.

Worth the wait: After 1,617 big league games, infielder Jeff Cirillo finally gets to be on a playoff team, and though he didn't get into either of the first two games, he has certainly enjoyed the ride.


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"That first game was unbelievable, it was absolutely electric," Cirillo said. "The second game, around the sixth inning I was exhausted. I was tired. I turned to some of the other guys and asked if anyone else was tired, and some of the guys were. It was like all of a sudden it hit us."

Same stuff, different results: After hitting just .238 during the regular season, shortstop Stephen Drew was 4-for-9 (.444) in the first two games of the series.

So is he doing anything different?

"Nope," Melvin said. "He's hit into some tough luck and he's also had some stretches where he's struggled, but these last two games he's been very good for us."

Rain, rain go away: There was a brief rain shower a few hours before Game 3 that forced the grounds crew to put the tarp over the field.

It also interrupted Brandon Webb's between-starts bullpen session. Webb got in about 15 pitches before the rain and afterward, he sat in the dugout.

"It's been awesome," Webb said of the postseason. "It's been everything I could have asked for, and tonight should be pretty sweet, with this crowd."

Steve Gilbert 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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