Notes: Taveras back in leadoff spot
Speedster hits first, Tulowitzki bats seventh behind Hawpe
PHOENIX -- It may be difficult to remember after watching the Rockies win all but one of their last 18 games, but the Rockies had a strong lineup with center fielder Willy Taveras batting leadoff.
That was manager Clint Hurdle's answer to the biggest question on Thursday going into Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Diamondbacks. Why mess with success?
Speed at the top of the order was the main reason Hurdle batted Taveras first and second baseman Kazuo Matsui second. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki dropped to No. 7 from No. 2, which had been his spot with both Taveras and Matsui at the top.
The other choice would have been to put Taveras seventh or eighth. Ryan Spilborghs and Cory Sullivan, the center fielders in Taveras' absence, hit low in the order. Hurdle likes the possibility of two speedy runners getting into scoring position for Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins.
"One thing you don't want to do is put up a lineup and guys go, 'What the ...?'" Hurdle said. "I mean you can have reasons and you can stand by and defend them. But we've had that lineup up there before. When those guys produce like they can produce, that's a good lineup."
Also, Taveras enters 7-for-17 (.412) in his career against Diamondbacks Game 1 starter Brandon Webb.
There is not much difference for Tulowitzki in batting second (.297 in 70 games) and batting seventh (.294 in 64 games). A rookie, Tulowitzki has more experience hitting higher in the order, but he isn't fretting.
"We have a great lineup, a great group of guys," Tulowitzki said. "For me, I take the same approach, trying to give them a quality A-B and put the ball in play hard. Second, seventh, I'm still in the lineup."
The lineup stands to be of most benefit to right fielder Brad Hawpe, who will bat ahead of Tulowitzki. Hawpe is 9-for-15 with two doubles and three home runs off Webb this season.
"The pluses are it stretches out the lineup, makes it the most challenging lineup from top to bottom that we can put out there," Hurdle said. "I think it gives Hawpe very credible protection behind him."
Thank you: The four days off between the end of the NL Division Series sweep of the Phillies most benefited left-handed setup reliever Brian Fuentes and right-handed closer Manny Corpas, who both worked in all three games.
"The other members of the 'pen weren't as active, but particularly, those two guys needed some time off because of the frequency of use," Rockies pitching coach Bob Apodaca said.
Apodaca added that two days off would have been more ideal, but he won't make an issue of it. Hurdle chuckles at the subject of days off being an issue.
"I see it as something out of our control, and [we'll] try to take advantage of it to the best of our abilities," Hurdle said. "I had a guy ask me the other day, and I said the alternative was for us to lose Game 3, lose Game 4 and then go battle in Philly in Game 5, and that wasn't really Plan A for me."
Young guys split up: With 23-year-old right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez starting Game 2 of the NLCS at Chase Field, Hurdle considered experience when inserting righty Josh Fogg into the rotation for Game 3 at Coors Field. That pushed 21-year-old lefty Franklin Morales to Game 4.
"First game back at home, I wanted to give [Morales] another day," Hurdle said.
Hurdle said he would not make Morales available out of the bullpen early in the series. It's been done by other managers, but Hurdle felt this team operated best with "normalcy, continuity."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.