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10/13/2007 12:49:00 PM

NLCS: Rox relying on defense

By Gennaro Filice

Defense wins championships.

This saying regularly gets tossed around in football and basketball circles, but I've never heard it uttered anywhere near the diamond. If the Rockies keep rolling through the playoffs, though, baseball could be the new home for one of American sports' age-old adages.

In Colorado's Game 2 win, the Rockies' outstanding defensive effort was impossible to ignore. Yes, second baseman Kaz Matsui made a throwing error in the bottom of the ninth, but the miscue didn't end up costing Colorado because Arizona's Stephen Drew mistakenly wandered off second base. It was almost as if Drew gave the Rockies a mulligan as a reward for the defensive clinic they put on all night.

Colorado set a major-league record for highest team fielding percentage during the regular season (.98925), committing just 68 errors over 163 games. The team's fantastic glove work was on full display during Colorado's 3-2 win on Friday night, with -- surprise, surprise -- Troy Tulowitzki leading the charge. I mentioned Tulo's bazooka arm in yesterday's entry, but this kid's no one-trick pony. The 23-year-old -- who led all major league shortstops in fielding percentage (.987) during the regular season and has a chance to become the first rookie shortstop ever to win the Gold Glove -- also boasts extremely soft hands and plus range. Tulowitzki made his presence felt right off the bat last night. In the bottom of the first, Drew smacked a ground ball into the hole, but Tulowitzki tracked it down and winged the ball across his body to barely nab Drew at first base. As the game when on, Tulo made a pair of sparkling plays on softly hit ground balls and did a spectacular job in blocking Chris Young's hand on a failed steal attempt.

Tulowitzki wasn't the only Colorado player making defensive contributions. Third baseman Garrett Atkins robbed Eric Byrnes of a double down the line in the third, Todd Helton made a great back-handed stab in the sixth and Yorvit Torrealba was a brick wall behind the plate all night long. Center fielder Willy Taveras outdid everyone, though, making the defensive play of the night in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and the speedy Byrnes on first, Arizona first baseman Tony Clark smashed a line drive deep into right-center field, but Taveras got a great jump and snagged the ball with a breathtaking dive to end the inning.

The Rockies don't just make the plays they're supposed to; they play an aggressive team defense that swings momentum and demoralizes the opposition.

Colorado now holds a commanding 2-0 lead heading home to Denver. Having finished the regular season tied for the NL lead in home wins (51), the Rockies will look to close out this series before it shifts back to Phoenix. If Colorado does advance the World Series, they won't be the only team with a dynamite defense. Boston and Cleveland ranked second and third, respectively, in AL fielding percentage during the regular season.

- Up In The Rockies says the media is completely overlooking Colorado's fabulous run.

- The Rocky Mountain News gives some much-deserved props to Colorado manager Clint Hurdle.

- Don't expect spring weather in Game 3 on Sunday night. A developing storm system in over the Southwest could even bring snow to Denver.

- East Valley Tribune's Scott Bordow poses a legitimate question: Are the D-backs finally acting their age?

- As Dan Bickley reports, Arizona's offense is completely leaving D-backs pitching out to dry.

- After Thursday night's shenanigans, the Arizona Republic reports that Diamondbacks fans were on their best behavior.


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