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10/12/07 1:34 AM ET
Spin Forward: D-backs need clear paths
Putting Rockies' speedy Taveras, Matsui on base dangerous
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Clint Hurdle either never heard or simply does not believe in that advisory. Never mind 17 wins in the Rockies' last 18 games. The Colorado manager tinkered with his almost-perfect lineup for the opener of the National League Championship Series, and not only did he get away with it, he turned nasty into downright filthy. Having center fielder Willy Taveras, activated for the NLCS following a month-long absence with a strained thigh, back atop the lineup ahead of No. 2 hitter-pest Kaz Matsui fulfilled Hurdle's wishes. "We were hoping to get them to play a little bit," Hurdle said, "and shake things up." They certainly have Doug Davis and Livan Hernandez all shook up. The D-backs' starters in the next two NLCS games are accustomed to working with men on base. If they aren't throwing out of a stretch, they just don't feel right. Arizona manager Bob Melvin went so far as to label the left-handed Davis, his Game 2 starter, a rope-a-dope kind of guy. Well, the aggressive Rockies are just the type of team to trip up Davis with his rope. It creates an unsettling scenario for the D-backs, who must conceive of a way to restrain the Rocky Relays to avoid leaving for Denver on Saturday as the first NLCS team to lose the first two at home since 2002, when the St. Louis Cardinals went to San Francisco in an 0-2 hole. Davis and Hernandez, who between them allowed 61 more hits and 235 more baserunners than innings pitched, got away with their styles in the Division Series sweep over the lethargic, deep-ball-playing Cubs. Davis never retired the side in order in his Game 2 triumph. In his six innings in the Game 3 clincher, Hernandez was surrounded by 12 baserunners -- only one of whom scored. It is difficult to imagine the two veteran hurlers surviving the Rockies in similar traffic. The 1-2 dash of Taveras and Matsui directly influenced two innings in which Colorado scored four of its runs in the 5-1 opening win. Taveras' single and ensuing steal of second torched the three-run third against Brandon Webb. On his two-out bouncer in the seventh that ricocheted off first baseman Conor Jackson's glove, Matsui's speed got him to first in time to allow Yorvit Torrealba to score from third base.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.