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Chess Match: Taveras the right move

Chess Match: Taveras the right move

PHOENIX -- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle surprised some people when he changed the lineup that had worked so well during a three-game sweep of Philadelphia in the National League Division Series.

Hurdle decided to go with center fielder Willy Taveras in the leadoff spot for Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night even though Taveras hadn't played since Sept. 8 because of a quad muscle injury and the Rockies had won 17 of their last 18 games. But the move paid dividends when Taveras' speed started a rally that put Colorado ahead to stay as they took Game 1 by a score of 5-1 at Chase Field.

Taveras takes off
The situation: One out, top of the third inning, Taveras on first base and Kazuo Matsui up.


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The decision: Taveras gets the green light from manager Clint Hurdle and steals second base.
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The outcome: Matsui singles to center field, scoring Taveras with the go-ahead run and Colorado goes on to score two more runs.

The analysis: Taveras' speed was a difference maker as it enabled him to get into scoring position and gave Arizona pitcher Brandon Webb something else to think about besides Matsui.

"That's one of the reasons Willy's been a good player for us, been a run scorer for us. He stays on a breaking ball and punches it in the outfield, steals a base. He can do those things. 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. So we were hoping to get them in play a little bit and shake things up."
-- Hurdle

Super sacrifice
The situation: None out, top of the seventh, Yorvit Torrealba on first, pitcher's spot up.


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The decision: Hurdle keeps the bunt sign on for pitcher Jeff Francis even after Francis falls behind 0-2. Francis takes the next pitch, a wild pitch from reliever Juan Cruz, which enables Torrealba to advance to second.

The outcome: Francis gets the two-strike bunt down in fair territory to move Torrealba to third, where he is in position to score Colorado's fifth run moments later on Conor Jackson's fielding error.

The analysis: Both teams have been saying it all week: The team that executes better will have the advantage. Francis came through in the clutch and it led to an insurance run for Colorado.

"This team has done a good job executing the plays, and that's another example."
-- Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday

Lefty the right call
The situation: Two outs in the bottom of the seventh with Colorado leading, 5-1, bases loaded, Arizona's Stephen Drew coming to bat.


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The decision: Hurdle summons left-hander Jeremy Affeldt from the bullpen to face Drew.

The outcome: Drew flies out on the first pitch from Affeldt to end the threat.

The analysis: A critical point in the game. The crowd had gotten back into it, and an extra-base hit would have made it a different ballgame.

"We had some situations where we could have done some damage and we didn't. Today, we just didn't get it done and they did. We had a situation where with a base hit we could have knocked a couple in."
-- Arizona manager Bob Melvin

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

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