PHOENIX - When the Arizona Diamondbacks look across the field at the Colorado Rockies this week, they might feel as if they're looking into a mirror.
The teams took similar routes to an unlikely destination - the NL Championship Series.
"We're going to have our hands full with Arizona, a tough team," Rockies outfielder Jeff Baker said. "We know them. They know us."
Start with their records: Arizona won the NL West at a league-best 90-72. The Rockies, who had to defeat San Diego in a one-game playoff to earn the wild-card berth, finished 90-73.
Both clubs have built from within, and they've done it relatively cheaply. The Rockies entered the season with a payroll of $54.4 million, $2.4 million more than the Diamondbacks. Only four clubs had lower payrolls.
Instead of spending on free agents, both organizations committed to building through the draft. Two of their finest products can be found at shortstop - Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, drafted in the first round two years ago, and Arizona's Stephen Drew, picked in the first round a year earlier.
Game 1 Thursday night will pit dazzling starting pitchers Brandon Webb of Arizona and Jeff Francis of Colorado. Both are homegrown.
Inexperience, however, sometimes can prove costly. But for the Diamondbacks and Rockies, what they don't know hasn't hurt them.
"With this team, everybody calls us young, but I think it's the most exciting team I've been on," said Drew, the younger brother of Red Sox outfielder J.D. Drew.
The playoffs have been sweet for teams that have struggled in recent years.
Colorado, which lost 94 games in 2004 and 95 in 2005, posted its first winning record since 2000. The Diamondbacks went 51-111 three years ago, and this year they broke a streak of three consecutive losing seasons, longest in the franchise's 10 years.
Both started slowly this season; the Diamondbacks were 47-43 at the All-Star break, third in the NL West, 3 1/2 games behind San Diego. Colorado was 44-44 and in fourth place, 5 1/2 games out.
"Everybody has been waiting for them to fall on their faces, but they're a good team," Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes said of the Diamondbacks. "No one projected us to be where we are, so it's going to be two very good ball clubs going at it."
Instead of quitting, both teams kept playing hard. That's a credit to Colorado skipper Clint Hurdle and Arizona manager Bob Melvin, as well as the desire of younger players to stick in the major leagues.
"It's a team," said Eric Byrnes, one of the Diamondbacks' few veterans. "It's as much of a team as you'll find in professional sports today.
"You have 25 guys pulling for each other. I've never heard one guy complain all year. We have guys who are ready to win. We've already exceeded expectations so far and we're going to continue to do so."
The Diamondbacks and Rockies have shown a penchant for hot streaks. The Diamondbacks won 17 of 20 in July and August, taking over first place.
The Rockies have won 17 of their past 18, the hottest streak in their 15-year history. The only pitcher to defeat the Rockies in that stretch? Webb, who beat Francis, 4-2, Sept. 28 in Denver.
The similarities between the teams have showed in the playoffs. Arizona outscored the Cubs, 16-6, in a three-game sweep of their series. The Rockies swept the Phillies by a combined score of 16-8.
In both series, the Diamondbacks and Rockies got timely hitting while shutting down their opponents' top batters.
"A lot of people, they're not giving credit to those guys because they're young and they don't have the big names on their team," Cubs slugger Alfonso Soriano said of Arizona's pitchers. "But they play the game good. You have to give them a lot of credit."