Archive for Friday, October 12, 2007

Taveras pays off for Rockies

October 12, 2007

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— Clint Hurdle messed with momentum, and it didn't matter.

The Rockies manager inserted Willy Taveras in a lineup that had won plenty without him, and the speedy center fielder sparked Colorado's 5-1 victory over Arizona in the opener of the NL championship series Thursday night.

In his first game in a month, Taveras ignited a three-run third-inning rally against Arizona ace Brandon Webb that led to the Rockies' 18th victory in 19 games.

Taveras, who missed the last three weeks of the season and the Rockies' three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the first round because of a recurring thigh injury, was activated from the disabled list for this series.

Hurdle put Taveras in the leadoff spot, a risky move that might have spoiled the Rockies' late-season momentum. Kaz Matsui was shifted down to the No. 2 spot, and Rookie of the Year candidate Troy Tulowitzki was bumped to seventh.

Even Taveras wondered if it was the right move.

"I was nervous. I was scared. They were playing so good without me," he said. "I felt some pressure coming over here, and if we lose, I would feel bad."

Taveras went just 1-for-5, but he was able to do just what the Rockies hoped: rattle the Diamondbacks.

With the score tied at 1, Taveras led off the third with a single up the middle. After drawing several pickoff throws from Webb, Taveras 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.

"You can get a quick run with Willy," Hurdle said. "You can get a quick run with Kaz. And at the top they put extra pressure on the defense. So, we're hoping to get them in play a little bit and shake things up."

Taveras sure didn't spoil Colorado's chemistry.

The Rockies' only loss in this incredible stretch was to Webb on Sept. 28, which clinched a playoff spot for Arizona, and the Rockies did it all without 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.

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