Mysterious as he attempted to be, in the end Clint Hurdle hardly pulled a surprise. He repeated himself, in fact, by putting Ryan Spilborghs in as Colorado's designated hitter in last night's World Series opener at Fenway Park.
When the Rockies visited Fenway in mid-June, the 28-year-old reserve outfielder served as DH for all three games, though without distinction. He went 1 for 11 and sandwiched in there was a three-strikeout game.
Obviously, it didn't cost his team, however, because the Rockies won two of three, and neither did it serve as an indictment of his talents.
"He's got some barrel to his bat," said Hurdle, who refused to answer questions Tuesday about his DH. "He's the best option we have to come in and maybe three or four at-bats to see if he can do something."
Of course, in the rain-soaked Game 1 debacle, what Hurdle needed wasn't a DH but two or three linebackers to tackle all those Boston base runners. Unfortunately, that option wasn't available, so into the lineup went Spilborghs.
Spilborghs got the nod because he has shown enough promise to warrant Hurdle's confidence. In 97 games this season, the native of Santa Barbara, Calif., used mostly as the fourth outfielder and pinch hitter, hit .299 with 11 home runs and 51 RBIs.
Spilborghs, a righthander, also served as the DH when Colorado left Boston and played three games in Baltimore, and he had more success at Camden Yards. He had a 3-for-5, six-RBI game in the finale of that series and was 5 for 13 combined.
Having broken into the major leagues with Kansas City, Hurdle obviously is familiar with the DH, but that's in his past. He's been a National League manager since 2002, so it's clear where his preferences sit.
"It's not the way we play the game," he said, "but we'll see how it works out for us." (Safe to say, not well. Spilborghs went 0 for 2 with a walk against Josh Beckett.)
Given the ability to place a DH into the lineup, Hurdle opted to take a lot of guesswork out of the equation. He simply placed Spilborghs ninth in the order.
"Continuity and normalcy has been huge for this ball club," said Hurdle. "The last thing you want to do is throw out a lineup where the players walk out and go, 'What's he doing?' Especially at this point in the year. It's a lineup that's similar to the ones we've had before."
Defense has been labeled a key to Colorado's torrid streak, but some indecision in the field cost the Rockies a run in the second. After Kevin Youkilis
worked a walk despite an 0-and-2 count, he was on the run when David Ortiz
went the other way with a line drive to the gap in left-center. It appeared left fielder Matt Holliday
could cut the ball off, but he yielded to center fielder Willy Taveras
, who played the bounce off the wall. The delay was just enough for third base coach DeMarlo Hale
to wave home Youkilis, who beat the relay from shortstop Troy Tulowitzki
. . . It doesn't go down as an error, but a mental mistake by Franklin Morales
helped Boston to another run. Pitching in relief of Jeff Francis
, Morales had one out and Jacoby Ellsbury
on first when his pickoff attempt was called a balk. Now at second, Ellsbury was able to score on Youkilis's double, though it hardly mattered. The next eight batters also reached base as things got out of control. It was the first balk in a World Series since Game 4 in 1996 when the Yankees' David Weathers
committed one . . . No worries with first baseman Todd Helton's
defense. His error-free stretch is up to 92 games, dating to June 14 at Fenway.
It's behind them
It took just one Boston at-bat - Dustin Pedroia's
homer - to put the Rockies into foreign territory - playing catch-up. During their seven-game march through the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series, they never trailed by more than one run, yet they were three down after seven Red Sox hitters . . . While compiling their 21-1 stretch, the Rockies were scored upon in the first inning just four times and only once did they give up more than one in the first . . . While Beckett mowed down the first four Colorado batters on strikes, his woes with third baseman Garrett Atkins
continued. Atkins, who went 3 for 3, including a grand slam, in the June 14 win over Beckett, hit a one-out double to improve to 7 for 11 in his career against the Red Sox righthander. Beckett did win the next two battles, retiring Atkins on strikes in the fourth and on a lazy fly to right in the sixth . . . The Rockies had three doubles before they had their first single, an infield hit by Kaz Matsui
in the sixth.
Another sign they've been playing brilliant baseball: It was the Rockies' first loss on the road since Sept. 13. They haven't lost two straight on the road since Aug. 27-28 in San Francisco . . . Colorado's seven straight wins in the postseason came to a halt, but it wasn't a record. The Red Sox in 2004 and the White Sox in 2005 each won eight in a row . . . The Rockies had struck out 61 times in seven postseason games, an average of 8.71. They struck out eight times in their first 17 batters last night . . . Rainy and 55? Certainly not pristine baseball weather, but the Rockies could relate. Game 3 of their NLCS against visiting Arizona was played in a drizzle with a temperature of 43. Besides, it was 55 degrees at Fenway during their 7-1 win behind Francis in June.
Much has been made of the Rockies' eight days of rest between their pennant-clinching game and the World Series opener. Only one team has had a longer rest - the 1910 Athletics, who had nine days off, and won their series, 4-1, over the Cubs. Last year, the Tigers had six days in between and went on to lose to the Cardinals, 4-1.
© Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company.