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NLCS notebook

Swing in his fortunes

Atkins goes back to basics at plate

The Rockies' Garrett Atkins, at a workout yesterday, became a lot more potent with a bat in his hands this season after changing his approach and going to the opposite field more. The Rockies' Garrett Atkins, at a workout yesterday, became a lot more potent with a bat in his hands this season after changing his approach and going to the opposite field more. (DAVID ZALUBOWSKI/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Garrett Atkins found the difference between a spot in the playoffs and a place on the bench was surprisingly subtle.

Stuck in a two-month slump to start the season, Atkins got pulled from the Colorado lineup in early June. Riding the pine for two days, he hated the view.

So he raised his back elbow a bit, torqued his body a tad, and kept his hands back, all of which allowed him to do better with offspeed pitches and hit more to the opposite field.

Basically, he'd rediscovered his old swing.

"I don't know what it was. I was just struggling for long enough and it was just that I found my stroke and things started happening a little better for me," Atkins said. "As you can see, you just kind of roll with it and good things happen."

At the time of his benching, the 26-year-old power hitter was batting .223. After a couple of games next to manager Clint Hurdle, Atkins went on a tear, hitting .338 with 22 home runs and 91 RBIs the rest of the way and helping lead the Rockies to the NL wild-card berth.

"It's a different look," Hurdle said. "Sometimes when you rearrange the furniture in your house, you have to find a different way across the room."

With wins in 17 of their last 18 games, including a sweep of the Phillies in the first round, the Rockies start the NL Championship Series tomorrow night at Arizona.

Atkins wound up hitting .301 overall with 25 homers and 111 RBIs, similar to his breakout season last year when he hit .329 with 29 homers and 120 RBIs.

Drew breaks out

The Diamondbacks' Stephen Drew always had a baseball pedigree. In this postseason, he's backed it up at the plate.

After a trying first full year with Arizona, the 24-year-old shortstop, the younger brother of the Red Sox' J.D. Drew, enjoyed a breakout performance in the Division Series.

"He's not just a defensive guy, he's not just an offensive guy. He's an all-around player," Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. "And you're seeing that now. The timing's pretty good. I'll have to give him credit for that."

Drew hit just .238 in the regular season. In the final few games of the season, Drew had some successful at-bats, then came his magnificent show - at the plate and in the field - in the Diamondbacks' three-game sweep of the Cubs.

Drew batted .500 (7 for 14) with a double, triple, and two home runs. He drove in four runs and scored four.

"It's a blessing," he said, "because the team picked me up this year when things weren't going good. To contribute back in the postseason is exciting for me. The confidence, it's been there. Just to start having something to show for it helps."

Hurdle under weather

Hurdle has been battling flu-like symptoms. He said he wasn't feeling too much better during yesterday's workout at Coors Field . . . Melvin said ace Brandon Webb will go for Arizona in Game 1, and lefty Doug Davis in Game 2. Righthander Livan Hernandez will be the Game 3 starter Sunday night, followed by rookie righthander Micah Owings in Game 4 Monday. Owings did not pitch in the Division Series but worked in an instructional league game yesterday.

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