10/14/07 8:34 PM ET
Notes: Room for improvement for bats
Despite playoff success, middle of the order has struggled
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Todd Helton, the team's longtime leader, is playing with gusto that's rubbing off on teammates, but he has a .100 postseason average. Garrett Atkins is hitting a little better -- .250 -- but with just one RBI -- although with No. 3 hitter Holliday and cleanup man Helton slumping, his opportunities are reduced.
None of this, of course, stopped the Rockies from winning their first five playoff games.
So manager Clint Hurdle, realizing hitters have fallen into and out of slumps before, is not panicking as the Rockies enter Sunday night's Game 3 of the National League Championship Series with a 2-0 lead over the Diamondbacks.
Hurdle was the Rockies' hitting coach before becoming manager during the 2002 season, and hitting remains close to his heart. But he knows enough about it to understand that anything he says could be a disruption.
Hurdle credits Rockies hitting coach Alan Cockrell for helping all his hitters through various slumps during the regular season, so there's no reason to change.
"He has a very calming personality," Hurdle said. "He's intense. He's aggressive. But in his interaction with them, he has been soothing, he knows what they need, he has an astute eye and he obviously has their confidence."
Holliday said D-backs starters Brandon Webb in Game 1 and Doug Davis in Game 2 have been partly to blame.
"This series, I've pretty much been awful. I did OK the first series, but for whatever reason, I haven't got any hits [in the NLCS]," Holliday said. "I'm happy that we've won some games, obviously that's all that matters at this point. I'd like to start getting some hits and making it a little easier on the pitchers if the middle of our order starts producing a little bit more.
"So hopefully we can get it going. Obviously, you have to give credit to Webb and Davis for pitching good games. But hopefully, me and the middle of the order can get it going in a little bit and give our pitchers a little bit more room."
In the black: The Rockies returned to the black sleeveless uniform that they wore while winning their last three regular-season games and the first four in the postseason. At Chase Field on Friday night, the Diamondbacks tried to disturb the Rockies' luck by wearing a black uniform that they wore previously only during Saturday home games. The Rockies won, 3-2, in 11 innings.
The Rockies were the home team on Sunday and had the choice of jersey.
Weather precautions: Hurdle said the cold, wet weather shouldn't be a problem, since the tarp kept the infield dry. The only special concern, he said, was monitoring center fielder Willy Taveras and second baseman Kazuo Matsui.
Both suffered leg injuries on Sept. 8. Taveras reinjured his strained quadriceps and didn't return until this series. Matsui missed part of the final month with a hamstring strain he suffered that night.
In several games, including the first two of the playoffs, Taveras, who will have to maneuver a wet outfield, has come out late in the game. In the first game, it was a precautionary measure. In the second, it was part of a double-switch involving pitcher Justin Speier, who earned the save.
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said players will deal better with cold than with wetness.
"I think both teams will be ready to play unless it rains," Tulowitzki said.
The teams took batting practice indoors.
Cook still working: Right-hander and Rockies Opening Day starter Aaron Cook, who has not pitched since Aug. 10 because of a strained oblique muscle, plans to throw a simulated game on Monday in hopes of being ready in case the club makes it to the World Series.
Cook said he wasn't sure how many pitches he'd throw, but he'd discuss it with pitching coach Bob Apodaca.
Cook pitched seven innings in an Arizona instructional game on Wednesday, but the Rockies felt he was not ready to return and did not place him on the NLCS roster. But he is eligible to be placed on the World Series roster.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.