PHOENIX -- So torrid are the Colorado Rockies that even a
risky move by their manager was pure gold.
Clint Hurdle figured adding speedy center fielder Willy Taveras
to a lineup that had won plenty without him was worth the risk, and
he was absolutely right.
Taveras ignited a three-run second-inning rally against Arizona
ace Brandon Webb in the Colorado Rockies' 5-1 win over the
Diamondbacks in the opener of the NL Championship Series on Thursday
Taveras, who missed the last three weeks of the season and the
Rockies' three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the first round of the
playoffs with a recurring thigh injury, was activated from the
disabled list and put in the leadoff spot.
Taveras went just 1-for-5 but he was able to do just what the
rollin' Rockies hoped: rattle the Diamondbacks.
With the score tied at 1, Taveras led off with a single up the
middle and stole second without a throw from catcher Chris Snyder.
Matsui then slapped a single into center field and Taveras raced
home with the go-ahead run.
The Rockies never looked back.
Their only loss in this incredible stretch that has seen them
win 18 of 19 was to Webb on Sept. 28, which clinched a playoff spot
D-Backs manager Bob Melvin then rested most of his regulars over
the next two days, and the Rockies won both games and reached the
playoffs with a wild 13-inning win over San Diego in the wild-card
They did it all with Taveras out of the lineup.
During his absence, Matsui led off, Tulowitzki hit second and
the Rockies roared into the NL championship series. Ryan Spilborghs, who hit .299 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs, had been
starting in center.
So, why risk messing with the momentum?
"Well, I think our main objective tonight is to find a way to
beat the Diamondbacks and provide some challenges for Brandon Webb," Hurdle explained before the game. "And Willy's had some
success against Webb."
Taveras was 7-for-17 in his career against Webb, a .412 batting
This is the lineup the Rockies envisioned coming out of spring
training, one that Hurdle didn't get to use very often because of
injuries to Taveras and Matsui.
"It's another barrel to the bat. It lengthens our lineup,
stretches it out, provides more challenges from top to bottom,"
Taveras batted .320 with two homers, 24 RBIs and a team-best 33
steals for Colorado. Despite being missing 66 games, he led the
majors with 37 bunt hits and 54 infield hits.
Taveras' rustiness showed in the seventh when the whiffed on an
outside pitch in the dirt with a runner on third. But first baseman
Conor Jackson booted Matsui's routine grounder, allowing the runner
to score and making it 5-1.