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Friday, October 12, 2007

Upton raises ire as Rockies beat D'backs   Send a link to a friend

[October 12, 2007]  PHOENIX (AP) -- In Troy Tulowitzki's view, Justin Upton was out of line not once but twice. First, Upton stared down Jeff Francis, the winner in Colorado's 5-1 victory over Arizona in the opener of the NL championship series Thursday night, after getting plunked by a changeup in the seventh inning.

Then, he rolled his right shoulder into second baseman Kaz Matsui while trying to break up a double play, which resulted in an interference call that ignited an eight-minute delay when rowdy fans threw bottles onto the field.

Tulowitzki's anger at Upton wasn't for taking out Matsui.

"I always respect guys that go into second hard," the Rockies rookie shortstop said after Colorado's 18th win in 19 games. "Whether or not it was the right call, I'm not sure. But I didn't really have a problem with that."

Tulowitzki did take exception, however, to Upton staring down Francis, who outpitched Arizona ace Brandon Webb and allowed just one earned run on seven hits in 6 2-3 innings.

"There's a man on first, no one's out. It was a change-up. The last thing Jeff's trying to do is hit a guy," Tulowitzki said. "I just thought he stared him down a little bit too long."

Down 5-1, Arizona put runners at runners at first and second with no outs in the seventh. Augie Ojeda bounced to third baseman Garrett Atkins, who threw to second baseman Matsui.

Upton, running from first base, slid over second base and then rolled his right shoulder into Matsui's left leg, knocking the infielder to the ground. Second base umpire Larry Vanover immediately called Upton out for interference, resulting in a double play.

"I was just playing the game. I did what I was supposed to do," Upton said. "That's what you're taught to do when you slide is pop up."

Vanover wasn't buying that explanation.

"You had obvious intent on the part of the runner to break up the double play, and when it turns into intentional, that's when he's out for interference," he said.

"Once he got to the base, I thought he threw his hip up into the guy, and his intent at that point is not to get to the base. His intent is to crash the pivot man, so you've got obvious intent there."

Said Rockies manager Clint Hurdle: "It looked like a good, aggressive slide going in, and I thought he went out of his way to make contact."

The crowd at Chase Field disagreed and a few fans threw bottles onto the field from the upper deck, and then more followed far down the foul lines. Some of them landed near Rockies players, and crew chief Tim McClelland cleared the field as Hurdle gestured in pulling his team off the field.

"There comes a point in time when you need to make a point. Enough's enough," Hurdle said.

Diamondbacks president Derrick Hall said he did not know how many fans had been ejected or whether any arrests had been made. The team cut off alcohol sales immediately.

"Obviously we don't condone that," Arizona manager Bob Melvin said of the rowdy fans. "You don't want stuff being thrown on the field."

No replays of the disputed call were shown on the video board.

"It's too bad it became about the umpires," Hall said. "But I think that showed we don't have such an apathetic crowd, clearly. The crowd was obviously showing that they thought the umpires overreacted. And once it began to get out of hand, we did all we could do to slow that down and to bring it to a stop."

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Hall demurred when asked if he, himself, thought the umpires overreacted: "That's not for me to say."

Once play resumed, the wild-card Rockies escaped a jam in their NLCS debut and won again.

Game 2 is Friday night in Phoenix, with Arizona lefty Doug Davis facing hard-throwing Colorado rookie right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez.

Francis dominated while Rockies hitters, coming off a first-round sweep over Philadelphia, patiently waited out Webb. Then again, they were familiar with the 2006 NL Cy Young winner -- this was the seventh time he started against Colorado this year.

Colorado's lone loss during its streak came to Webb and the Diamondbacks at Coors Field on Sept. 28. This time, the Rockies won by bunching singles against the Arizona ace -- it was the first time this season they won without an extra-base hit.

Webb and the Diamondbacks swept the Chicago Cubs in the first round. Arizona kept it going in the first inning, taking a 1-0 lead on a single by Drew and a double by Eric Byrnes.

Brad Hawpe, long a nemesis of Webb, drove in two runs with a bases-loaded single in Colorado's three-run third inning. Hawpe, who also singled, improved to 15-of-40 (.375) against Webb with 14 RBIs.

Matsui's RBI single brought home the speedy Willy Taveras with the go-ahead run earlier in the third. Taveras, who missed the previous 24 games with a thigh strain, had singled and stolen second without a throw.

Hurdle said he had no trepidation about messing with momentum and inserting Taveras into a lineup that was doing just fine without him.

"I just knew the lineup we threw out there against him last time didn't work," said Hurdle, who knew he'd be second-guessed if the risky move had backfired.

"If it doesn't work, any time you make a move like that, you're going to wear it. And you should. That's your job. But you've got to do what you believe in," Hurdle said.

The Rockies also got a break in the inning when Matt Holliday's trickler down the third-base line started foul before swerving fair and rolling into the bag.

Webb, who won a career-best 18 games in the regular season, allowed four runs on seven hits in six innings.

Notes: Francis is now 8-2 in his last 11 road starts. ... The Rockies haven't lost away from Denver since Sept. 13 at Philadelphia. ... Matsui leads all players with seven RBIs this postseason. ... Arizona's bullpen saw its streak of 8 1-3 scoreless innings snapped.

[Associated Press; by Arnie Stapleton]

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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