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Spin Forward: D-backs need clear paths

Spin Forward: D-backs need clear paths

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.

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"Those two at the top of the order, that's a good lineup for them," Melvin conceded. "[What they did] didn't surprise me."

Hard to conceive of a team riding a 17-1 wave as having missed something, but Taveras certainly appears to make the Rockies whole. The last time he had actually played, on Sept. 8, the Rockies were a fourth-place team, six games out of the NL West lead and even four games down the Wild Card list.

"I was feeling some pressure," Taveras admitted following Thursday night's game, "because they were doing great, and I didn't feel they needed me. I wanted to again feel like a part of the team.

"The first chance we got, I did what I needed to. That three-run inning was huge for us."

Taveras' ego has recovered, because his presence helped the Rockies avenge their only loss since Sept. 16 -- the 4-2 defeat to the same Arizona pitcher on Sept. 28.

"We beat Brandon Webb -- which we didn't before," Taveras said, nodding.

The Rockies, who accepted an unfair share of the pre-series accent on the youth in this NLCS, will keep pressing. The starting eight in Colorado's Game 1 lineup had a total Major League experience of 4,477 games, compared to 2,213 for the D-backs -- whose only player with more than 315 games' experience was left fielder Eric Byrnes.

"I just thought we needed to go at them a different way with some people that have had success," Hurdle said in explaining his lineup alteration, which most significantly had dropped Troy Tulowitzki from the two-hole to No. 7. "And we were able to have some good at-bats. Ran up [Webb's] pitch count, manufactured a run at the top.

"You can get a quick run with Willy. You can get a quick run with Kaz. And at the top they put extra pressure on the defense."

Neither Davis nor Hernandez looms as a valve for that pressure. They, and catcher Chris Snyder, will have their hands full to keep Taveras and Matsui from running them into an early grave.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }
{"content":["league_championship_series" ] }