04/27/2002 02:38 am ET
Rockies beat Phillies in Hurdle's debut
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
DENVER -- The new manager's immediate task was preventing Friday night from becoming the same old game for the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies scored two first-inning runs against the Philadelphia Phillies and still had the bases loaded with one out, but didn't score again. It was eerily similar to the past four games of the five-game losing streak that cemented manager Buddy Bell's firing. Speaking of cement, the Rockies and their two runs were stuck in it for the next six innings.
In the end, though, the Rockies wrote a new beginning for new manager Clint Hurdle. They didn't waste John Thomson's 7 1/3 innings of pitching, scratched out a couple of late runs and benefited from a stellar Larry Walker throw to end an eighth-inning rally for a 4-1 victory at Coors Field.
Hurdle and the Rockies left happy for the fourth time in 11 home games, but one personnel move and one victory does not a true change make. When the Rockies needed big hits, they got little ones of the infield variety from Todd Hollandsworth twice and Jose Ortiz -- which is better than the nothing those players have been giving them. They still left 11 on base.
But at least the Rockies were able to fight off the here-we-go-again blues, which most players insist never crept in but had to have lurked in the darkness. With a cast that starred in the worst start in 10 seasons of Rockies baseball not expected to change soon, the idea of making the change was the hope the Rockies would react positively to Hurdle's approach.
"Everything starts with a thought," Hurdle said. "Through the course of my playing career and my coaching career, I do what I can not to allow negativism to slide in. I keep rolling, I keep positive, I keep telling the guys even on the bench, 'Hey, we're looking for a big play here. We need a ground ball here.' Something positive to work our way.
"If it doesn't you make something up the next time."
Of course, the Rockies still must address their run-producing difficulties in the short term and in a long term build a roster that works on the field and on the payroll sheet, but that's for another day. Much of that falls to general manager Dan O'Dowd, who admitted being "on an island, and that island for me has just distanced itself from my neighbor island."
But for a night, the Rockies don't have to make up another explanation for failure or come up with empty declarations that they have too much ability to struggle so badly.
"Two runs at Coors Field and the opportunities we had ..." said Walker, who caught Scott Rolen's fly ball in short right-center field and threw on the fly to beat Jason Michaels to the plate to end the eighth with momentum. "We still didn't get the hits we'd like to get with runners in scoring position. It's been a struggle, especially for me personally.
"But we got a win. So it's tough to look on bad things and say what if. We won the game. That's what counts."
The Rockies counted a victory, for a change.
In making the move, O'Dowd said he wanted to see more fun, more aggressiveness.
Some of that appeared. With two out in the eighth and the Rockies leading, 3-1, Juan Pierre walked then daringly stole second to be driven in by Juan Uribe, who had two hits and improved his batting average to .367. Hollandsworth, who had tried to steal once all season, tried twice, even though he was unsuccessful both times.
Actually, the active baserunning had more to do with situations than any change in the dugout. Pierre ran with a lead, as opposed to the late-innings ties and deficits the Rockies had been facing lately. As for Hollandsworth, his good night raised his average to .212 -- and reaching base is a prerequisite to stealing.
But maybe the performance can become the norm amid Hurdle's constant positive talk and the mandate to be more aggressive.
"It's a little bit too early to tell, but I think guys were a lot looser tonight, just going out there and playing," Pierre said.
Whether replacing Bell with Hurdle ignites the Rockies is still an open issue.
Because most of the batting order is locked, lineups won't be different. Struggling players getting on track will help, but there is still little power -- with Todd Helton finally hitting but not hitting homers and Walker's power limited by a sore elbow -- or speed in the lineup. The Rockies continue to get solid pitching for a team that plays at Coors, as evidenced by Thomson's eight strikeouts and seen hits allowed and the relied work of Rick White (one inning, two strikeouts) and Jose Jimenez (fifth save) Friday night.
But the Rockies, nearly to a man loyal to Bell, like the familiarity with Hurdle.
"A lot of guys in the clubhouse like him," said Thomson (3-2). "They've heard that when he managed in the minor leagues (with the New York Mets) that he was the same type of person, no matter if he was the hitting coach or he was the manager.
"I think a lot of guys will kind of just take it and run with it."
With Hurdle leading the way, maybe the Rockies can run in a new direction.
Thomas Harding covers the Rockies for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.