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Gibson learns from watching Cardinals in postseason

Gibson learns from watching Cardinals in postseason

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Gibson learns from watching Cardinals in postseason
PHOENIX -- As he watched the ninth inning of Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Nationals, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson was mesmerized.

The Cardinals' four-run rally in the ninth led them to a 9-7 win after they had fallen behind, 6-0, through three innings.

In doing so, they showed the kind of grit, determination and hard-fought at-bats that Gibson wants to see in his own team.

"I thought that inning as I looked at it [and] I was like, 'Yeah, that's it, that's good stuff,'" Gibson said. "It was certainly something that I looked and said that's really what you're trying to accomplish. They were down to their last strike."

In fact, there were five pitches made with two strikes that would have ended the game.

Instead, catcher Yadier Molina and third baseman David Freese were both able to work walks.

"Those guys, they had conviction ... and they just had a very good approach," Gibson said of the Cardinals in general.

The D-backs struggled mightily in pressure situations in 2012, hitting .199 in late-and-close situations, which is defined as the seventh inning or later with the score tied, ahead by one, or the tying run on deck.

"If you look at our numbers late-and-close, they were brutal. Brutal," Gibson said. "We've got to be better at it, so it's something that we'll have to work on."

To Gibson, the key is having hitters who are able to foul off those nasty pitches on the corners and look to get a pitch closer to down the middle with some elevation.

"I think it's a case where guys try to put every ball in play fair," Gibson said. "I don't think that's something you need to do. That's just too hard to do. You get two strikes on you and you get a ball that's bearing in on you, I was taught to just [foul it off]. You're just trying to live for another pitch, something you can handle."

It's a great theory, but putting it into practice is another matter. And as the Cardinals showed when their bats struggled in the final few games of the NL Championship Series with the Giants, hitting is not an exact science.

"It's not easy to do," Gibson said. "You have to find the mechanics to do it."

Different hitters respond to different types of drills, so the challenge for Gibson and hitting coach Don Baylor is to try and find different ways to teach the same thing next spring.

Watching the Cardinals grind out at-bats is just one example of what a Major League manager can learn when watching postseason games.

"You're always trying to watch stuff and see what guys do -- whether it's the players, the managers or the organizations -- and what you can take out of it for your team," Gibson said.

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

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