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Playoff-seasoned Blanco gives D-backs edge

MLB.com

PHOENIX -- The D-backs may be short on postseason experience, but they do have one player patrolling the clubhouse who has been through almost every playoff scenario imaginable.

Gregor Blanco signed a one-year deal with the D-backs in late March in order to provide some depth in the outfield and a veteran presence. As it turns out, his past experience in chaotic Wild Card Games could be an added bonus.

PHOENIX -- The D-backs may be short on postseason experience, but they do have one player patrolling the clubhouse who has been through almost every playoff scenario imaginable.

Gregor Blanco signed a one-year deal with the D-backs in late March in order to provide some depth in the outfield and a veteran presence. As it turns out, his past experience in chaotic Wild Card Games could be an added bonus.

The D-backs locked up their first postseason appearance since 2011 with a win over the Padres, and they will host the National League Wild Card Game at Chase Field on Wednesday. Blanco and Daniel Descalso have both played in WIld Card Games in their careers -- Descalso in 2012 with the Cardinals, and Blanco in '14 and '16 with the Giants.

Blanco in particular has seen just how quickly the momentum of a Wild Card Game can swing, and how the outcome can depend on one starting pitcher or one pivotal play.

"I've asked as many people who have played in the game as possible," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "Gregor said two words about the two games: 'Madison Bumgarner.'"

Bumgarner threw shutouts in both 2014 and '16, adding evidence to the notion that as long as a team can reach the Wild Card Game, it takes just one standout performance to advance to the Division Series.

"It's one game that anything can happen," Blanco said. "I think you just have to show up that day and just let everything down and just find a way to actually win the game. It can be a [home run], one passed ball, the way you run the bases. You just have to take anything you can get in that game."

While the 33-year-old Blanco's contributions on the field have been modest -- he's hitting .236 with 12 RBIs in 88 games this year -- he quickly established himself as a leader when he arrived in Arizona. Earlier in the season, teammates and coaches credited Blanco for the culture change that has helped the D-backs go from a team that finished 69-93 in 2016 to a playoff team this season.

"It's kind of like when he says something, everyone locks onto it and you pay attention," Lovullo said back in June. "We all know that he's won a couple World Series in San Francisco. We all play for that. … So when he says, 'This is how it should be done,' you stop and pay attention to him. He doesn't abuse that; he says things that are very meaningful."

Paul Goldschmidt is the only everyday player left from the Arizona team that won the NL West in 2011, and David Hernandez, whom the club acquired from the Angels in July, is the only pitcher who was on the roster at the time.

"It's good to have an experienced guy who has been through it," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who managed Blanco. "That always helps. They're a good team over there. Gregor has helped make them a good club and gives you a guy off the bench, a plus defender. You know, he's been through it, so I'm sure he'll help out there."

Jarrid Denney is a reporter for MLB.com based in Phoenix.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Arizona Diamondbacks