Five keys for D-backs this postseason

Five keys for D-backs this postseason

Five keys for D-backs this postseason
PHOENIX -- Kirk Gibson is not big on predictions.

Nobody picked his Arizona Diamondbacks to win the National League West, but the manager told his players to be their "own experts."

"We just go about our business," he said. "We don't need credit from people with their comments. We just need to validate ourselves through our performance. If we do, they won't have a choice but to give us the credit. If we don't, then who cares? You move on. It won't be from a lack of effort or we roll over."

The D-backs may be an underdog once again, but here are five keys to how they can surprise people once again:

1. Starting things off: The D-backs' bullpen has gotten a lot of attention, and rightly so, but the club needs its starters to continue to pitch deep into games to make sure Gibson can line up the back end of the bullpen the way he wants. Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson need to set the tone in Games 1 and 2.

2. Upton stepping up: There is no question that Justin Upton is the main cog in the D-backs' lineup, and for much of the season, how he's gone is how the team has gone. They'll need their Most Valuable Player candidate to step up under the postseason spotlight.

3. Protection from Montero: With Upton being the most dangerous part of the Arizona lineup, opponents will need to have a reason to pitch to him rather than around him. Cleanup hitter Miguel Montero could provide that with a strong offensive showing of his own. Though he often flies under the radar, Montero is one of the best hitting catchers in the league.

4. Locking it down: Assuming the starters pitch deep into the game and the offense led by Upton takes a lead, the D-backs will have to rely on David Hernandez and J.J. Putz to close things out. How good has the pair been? The D-backs have not lost a game this year when they've led after eight innings, and that will be crucial in October.

5. Running wild: Being aggressive on the bases has been a trademark for the D-backs this year, and it can sometimes lead to them running into outs. Gibson has vowed that the team will not change in the playoffs. That means it will have to hope its aggressiveness leads to mistakes by opponents rather than lost opportunities on the bases.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.