Print and Go Back MLB Playoffs 2007 [Print without images]

Thursday, October 11, 2007
Taveras activated, inserted into Rockies' lineup for Game 1

Associated Press

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 night.

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.

That bumped Kaz Matsui to the No. 2 spot and Rookie of the Year hopeful Troy Tulowitzki to seventh.

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 for Arizona.

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 tiebreaker.

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 average.

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," Hurdle said.

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.