Hawpe gets to Webb as Rockies cruise
Francis makes early runs stand to avenge only recent defeat
PHOENIX -- Brad Hawpe sees the Rockies' recent success as being much like a sound approach to healthy eating. Just take little bites.
For example, Hawpe had homered three times against Diamondbacks ace Brandon Webb during the regular season. But all he wanted Thursday night was a good swing, which turned out to be a two-run single in the third inning -- as big a hit as the Rockies managed in their 5-1 Game 1 victory in the National League Championship Series at Chase Field.
"Not do too much -- just put the barrel on the ball and try to hit it and get on base," Hawpe said of his game plan.
Not do too much was good enough to improve Hawpe's 2007 RBI total against Webb, last year's Cy Young Award winner, to 13. It brought the Rockies to 4-1 against Webb in 2007.
While Thursday's game was punctuated by fans throwing debris on the field after an interference call against the D-backs, it's mere background noise on the night the Rockies -- who had played almost their entire 15 seasons of existence without winning nine in a row -- won for the 18th time in their past 19 games.
The Rockies wrested home-field advantage with the victory. Game 2 is Friday night, and the series moves to Coors Field for three straight, if necessary, starting Sunday.
But all that adds up to too big a chunk for these Rockies.
"We're 1-0," Hawpe said. "We had such a long break, all we were thinking about was the series coming up, winning the first one."
Like Hawpe's approach against Webb, the Rockies didn't make the first NLCS game in their history any bigger than a string of little tasks.
The Rockies had eight hits, one fewer than their opponent, and had no extra-base hits.
"You can't expect to hit home runs and doubles off Brandon Webb to score your runs," said Matt Holliday, whose third-inning single off Webb touched in foul ground but kicked back and ticked off third base to become fair. "You gotta fight for them."
The Rockies loaded the bases with no outs in the second and scored when Webb forced Troy Tulowitzki into a double play. Kazuo Matsui knocked a soft RBI single to left in the third, and then the Rockies loaded the bases for Hawpe's feathered single to right. The Rockies added an unearned run in the seventh.
A frustrated Webb, who gave up four runs and seven hits in six innings and is stuck with a 5.80 ERA against the Rockies in 2007, said: "They had some good luck on their side because they didn't hit too many hard, but give them credit for putting the ball in play and hitting it where we weren't. There was nothing I could do about it."
The Rockies won with left-handed starter Jeff Francis continuing his success against the D-backs (6 1/3 innings, seven hits, one run) and a solid bullpen (no runs, two hits, two strikeouts). A defense that set the all-time fielding percentage record during the regular season turned three double plays.
Francis, who struck out four against two walks and two hit batters, is 8-2 in 15 career starts against the D-backs.
"I can't explain it," Francis said. "I think it's just a small sample size of me not being here that long and having a good run against that team."
The performance brought Colorado starters' ERA to 3.39 during the current hot streak. The Rockies led the NL with a 3.86 ERA from the All-Star break to the end of the regular season.
Francis gave up no runs after Eric Byrnes' one-out RBI double in the first.
|"You can't expect to hit home runs and doubles off Brandon Webb to score your runs. You gotta fight for them."|
|-- Matt Holliday|
With two on and nobody out in the seventh, Justin Upton was ruled out for interference -- and the Rockies were awarded a double play -- when he slid over the bag and rolled into Matsui at second. Tulowitzki shouted angrily at Upton as he left the field, and some among the sellout crowd of 48,142 tossed objects onto the playing surface, causing the delay as the players left the field until calm returned.
Jeremy Affeldt bailed the Rockies out in the seventh by coaxing Stephen Drew's fly ball to right with the bases loaded.
Brian Fuentes gave up one hit but fanned two in the eighth, and Manny Corpas threw a scoreless ninth for a bullpen that has a 2.20 ERA over the 19-game surge.
Webb's victory over the Rockies, which is the one recent loss, came at Coors Field on Sept. 28. It played a role in manager Clint Hurdle's biggest lineup decision of the postseason.
Hurdle went with the Rockies' preferred lineup. Willy Taveras, who had been out since suffering strained right quadriceps on Sept. 8, returned as leadoff man and Matsui dropped a spot, to No. 2. Each went 1-for-5, but each also stole a base and scored a run.
Taveras and Matsui entered with career averages of .412 and .423, respectively, against Webb.
"I just thought we needed to go at them a different way, with some people that have had success, and we were able to have some good at-bats early," Hurdle said. "You gotta do what you believe in."