Rockies-Phillies: Jim Tracy's Moves Pay Dividends in Game Two
Since compiling a 74-42 record since taking over the managerial position of the Colorado Rockies in late May, Jim Tracy might have felt compelled to simply stick to his guns following a lackluster Game One performance from his team, believing they would bounce back by themselves in Game Two.
After all, who needs to switch partners when you believe you've got the prettiest girl at the dance anyway?
But after their 5-1 defeat in Game One, Tracy instead decided to reshuffle his deck against Cole Hamels, taking struggling Brad Hawpe out of the lineup and putting Ryan Spilborghs in his stead, and flip-flopping Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler at the top of the batting order.
After being throttled by Cliff Lee in Game One, without too many quality at bats against the left-hander, the Rockies not only needed some better plate discipline but a shot in the arm as well.
Gonzalez provided the adrenaline right out of the gate in Game Two, singling off Hamels, stealing second on an attempted pickoff, advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt, and scampering home on Todd Helton's 38-foot ground ball to give the Rox an early 1-0 lead.
Gonzalez, who picked up two of the team's six hits in game one, knocked three more on Thursday to make himself 5-for-9 in the series.
Who was that other guy who used to wear number 5?
Fowler, who definitely showed his age in Game One by swinging at nearly every pitch he saw without much success, slid down a spot in the batting order to offset some of the pressure on the youngster.
Boy, did he respond.
Though Fowler did finish 0-for-2 on the day, he lofted two huge sacrifice flies to bring home two important runs for the ball club. Dex battled in both instances, coming through on 1-2 counts in each of his at bats, a far cry from the weak swings he displayed in Game One.
Now this brings us to Brad Hawpe.
Hawpe is one of the big reasons the Rockies were able to begin their resurgence at the beginning of June, hitting .320 with 14 home runs and 59 RBI in the first half to earn his first career All-Star appearance.
Hawpe is a streaky hitter by trade, but his second half of the season did not inspire much confidence around the team as the lefty scuffled to a .240 batting average with just 27 RBI.
He hit just .194 in September with only two home runs, so coming into the NLDS, there were many questions about whether or not Hawpe would be the best bet for the Rockies out there in right field.
In Game One, Hawpe went 0-for-3 with a strikeout and committed a dreadful error out in right. With another southpaw on the hill in Hamels, and the fact that Hawpe hit just .243 against lefties in 2009, Tracy went with his gut and substituted Ryan Spilborghs for Hawper.
Spilly went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, scoring what turned out to be the winning run on Dexter Fowler's second sac fly.
With a righty more than likely starting on Saturday night (Pedro Martinez maybe?) Rockies fans will probably see Hawpe back in the starting lineup, and for good reason (.303 batting average against righties this season).
But should the Rockies face Cliff Lee or even Hamels again, expect Tracy to go with his best matchups rather than the guys that necessarily got the team to this point.
Tracy rolled the dice by benching Hawpe for Game Two, but the move paid dividends for a team who now finds themselves with momentum heading back home where the team is 51-30 this season.
Though it may feel like Rock-cember in Denver on Saturday, Jim Tracy has a feeling the Rockies are just getting warmed up.
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