10/12/07 3:15 AM ET
Rox turn to small ball to top D-backs
Colorado triumphs despite not getting an extra-base hit
By Jim Molony / MLB.com
These guys don't bury opponents underneath an avalanche of long balls, as their predecessors of the mid-1990s did. These Rockies cover you under piles of pebbles.
They were at it again Thursday night, using eight singles and four walks to forge a 5-1 victory over Arizona in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at Chase Field.
"We've got so many guys that can hurt you in different ways. We've got some power, and we've got some speed," Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras said. "If the pitching keeps us in the game, we'll be fine."
Taveras made his first postseason appearance since Game 4 of the 2005 World Series. Manager Clint Hurdle put the speedy Taveras back in the leadoff spot for the first time since Sept. 8. He'd been sidelined with a quad muscle injury.
Taveras and No. 2 hitter Kaz Matsui, who hit .417 in the NLDS, have provided quite a spark at the top of the Colorado order and one that has helped the team compensate for an uncharacteristic lack of pop from some of the middle-of-the-order hitters recently.
Colorado's 3-4-5 hitters -- Matt Holliday, Todd Helton and Garrett Atkins -- were a combined 7-for-38 (.184) with two homers and four RBIs against Philadelphia in the NLDS. The trio contributed three singles in 10 combined at-bats Thursday night against Arizona.
Once again the Rockies won. They have won four consecutive postseason games, seven straight overall and 18 of their last 19.
"We haven't really bashed anybody in these series with homers," Atkins said. "It seems like when we've had big innings, it's just because we've been able to string together some hits and walks. Things have just been going well for us, and we've haven't even had the home run hits."
Having Taveras back gives the offense another weapon to use when the power is off. His speed was instrumental in starting the third-inning rally that put the Rockies ahead to stay.
"You see what he brings. When he's on base, the pressure he puts on the defense, when he's on base the pressure he puts on the pitcher, and they've got to pay attention to him," Atkins said. "He stole second, and then Kaz comes through with the big hit. That's kind of the way it's been when he's out there."
Taveras, who said not being able to contribute in the NLDS "was killing me," couldn't wait to chip in against the Diamondbacks.
"I just tried to get a jump and make things happen," Taveras said. "We had a great inning right there. That was big for us because Brandon Webb -- there's not much he'll give you. That was the difference in the game right there."
Right fielder Brad Hawpe is one Colorado thumper who hasn't been struggling in the postseason. He batted .273 in the NLDS and went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs against Webb Thursday night.
"I know, I'm going to have to talk to him about that," Holliday joked.
Hawpe has knocked in 10 runs in his last seven games against the Diamondbacks and is batting .375 (15-for-40) with four homers and 15 RBIs in his career against Webb.
"I don't know what it is. He's a good low-ball hitter, and Brandon's throwing sinkers," Holliday said. "I'm going to try and bat left-handed next time."
Said Atkins: "It helps that [Hawpe's] left-handed, and his barrel kind of stays through the zone a long time and he can hit the sinker. The sinker doesn't bother him. When you don't have a problem with the guy's best pitch, you're usually going to have success against him."
The offense has been adequate despite the curtailed production from most of the middle-of-the-order hitters other than Hawpe.
"Obviously you'd like to have all of us going good, but the main thing is we're getting it done one way or another," Helton said. "We didn't hit any [extra-base hits] tonight, but you've got to remember who we're facing. But we did score enough runs to get the win, and that's the important thing."
While they're waiting for the rest of the offense to break out, the Rockies can look ahead to Friday and the chance of going up 2-0 in the best-of-seven NLCS.
"To get the first one is huge. Now we're going to be greedy and try to take the second one tomorrow," Atkins said. "We haven't been swinging the bats that well, but we've been able to get the big hit when we needed to."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.