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Rox-solid defense aids Colorado

Rox-solid defense aids Colorado

PHOENIX -- When the ball left Tony Clark's bat, Rockies reliever La Troy Hawkins turned around and was surprised by what he saw.

"I thought [Rockies center fielder Willy Taveras] was playing over there [shaded to right-center] already, and then when I saw he had to run a long way and lay out, I was like, 'Yes!'"

Taveras' diving grab of Clark's drive to deep center ended the seventh inning and prevented an Arizona run in a National League Championship Series Game 2 the Rockies would eventually win, 3-2, in 11 innings on Friday night at Chase Field.

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"I'm not an emotional guy, but that was a pretty impressive play," Hawkins said. "I told him I'd have to donate to his daughter's scholarship fund."

Taveras' gem was one of a few highlight reel plays turned in by baseball's best defense, which has helped the streaking Rockies to a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven NLCS and 19 wins in their last 20 games.

The Rockies are the first National League team to win the first five games of a postseason since the Wild Card was introduced in 1995. The last team to win five straight games to open the playoffs was the New York Yankees in 1999. The last NL team to win its first five postseason games was the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.

Pitching and hitting have played their parts, but the Colorado defense has been exceptionally good all year, and has continued that level of play in the postseason.

Friday night they were at it again.

Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki made a nice play to throw out Stephen Drew in the first and blocked the bag at second enough to tag out Chris Young attempting to steal in the third. Third baseman Garrett Atkins made a fine play on a ball hit by Eric Byrnes in the third.

But it was Taveras' run-saving grab in center that stole the show.

"I know that LaTroy was throwing a fastball, and I know I was playing on the other side of the field," Taveras said. "I don't think he crushed that ball, he hit it good. But the ball hung up a little bit longer enough that I just took off running and tried to make it for the team."

The catch ended the Arizona threat and quieted the sellout crowd.

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"That's what he brings to this team," Hawkins said. "We don't like to brag about our defense but we did set a fielding percentage record in history didn't we? Some things you kind of expect."

The Rockies set a Major League record for highest fielding percentage in a season with their .98925 mark this year. Their 68 errors tied the record for fewest by a National League club, matching the mark set by the 1999 New York Mets.

"That was a tremendous catch," Rockies reliever Ryan Speier said. "That's been the story all year for us, they've been really tremendous, we've got great defense behind us."

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

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