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D-backs can't help looking beyond the NL West

The Sports Xchange
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The Diamondbacks would clinch the NL West pennant with a victory in any of their three games in a weekend series against World Series champion San Francisco, but capturing the division title is hardly the extent of their reach.

The D-backs, who reached 90 victories for the fifth time in franchise history while cutting their magic number to two with an 8-5 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, have their sights on the No. 2 seed in the NL playoffs, which would enable them to open at home.

"We'd like home-field advantage," said manager Kirk Gibson, who wants to win every game but not over-tax his regulars. "We've played pretty good here. I'd like to bring the playoffs here to our fans, get some excitement going on.

"We'll remain focused on that, but at the same time I don't want to hurt anybody."

The D-backs (90-66) are one game behind Milwaukee (91-65) entering the final six games of the season.

Neither will catch top-seeded Philadelphia (98-57), but the D-backs will win a tie-breaker after taking the season series against the Brewers, 4-3. The D-backs took two of three in Miller Park on July 4-6 and earned a split of a four-game series in Arizona from July 18-21, when Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy pitched seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory.

The prize in finishing with the second-best record is missing NL favorite Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs.

However, some people contend that it might be advantageous to face the Phillies in a best-of-five series rather than a best-of-seven because it would mitigate their greatest strength, strong and deep starting pitching.

As things stand now, the No. 2 finisher would open against wild-card leader Atlanta, and No. 3 would play the Phillies. If St. Louis or San Francisco overtakes Atlanta in the tight wild-card race, the Cardinals/Giants would meet Philadelphia in the first round, with the other two division winners meeting.

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