Notes: Rox feeding off Kaz's bat
Second baseman's return to the lineup giving Taveras a boost
BOSTON -- Kazuo Matsui ambled over to Willy Taveras in the Rockies' clubhouse on Thursday afternoon, and the two began mirroring one another's dance steps before breaking into laughter.
"He knows a little bit of Spanish, and he teaches me Japanese, just a couple words," Taveras said with a smile. "And I try teach him a little bit of Dominican dance -- the merengue."
Since Matsui returned from the disabled list on May 21, he and Taveras have given the Rockies their groove.
Going into Thursday night's game against the Red Sox, Taveras, the leadoff man, had lifted his batting average form .292 to .318 (ninth in the National League) in the last 17 games. As the No. 2 hitter, Matsui has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games and is batting .315 heading into Thursday.
The on-base performance of the top two hitters in the lineup was slightly better when Matsui went on the disabled list and shortstop Troy Tulowitzki turned hot in Matsui's spot.
But, the team's overall production has increased since Matsui returned and Tulowitzki moved to No. 7. The top two spots have produced more extra-base hits, have been more of a threat to steal and scored runs at a slightly higher rate.
More importantly, the Rockies are 14-7 since Matsui's return.
Rockies winning with Matsui
Matsui on DL
Matsui said the more he hits behind Taveras, the more he likes it. Taveras' speed means the "pitcher pays, let's say, 70 percent [of his attention] to me, and that helps a lot."
When Taveras is on, the opposing pitcher and defense have to worry about Taveras' speed in stealing bases, but they also have to be aware that Matsui can beat out a bunt. Also, Matsui's speed makes it more difficult to convert double plays.
Also, No. 3 hitter Matt Holliday doesn't mind hitting behind speedy players. Holliday's hitting with enough confidence -- his .352 average was third in the NL heading into Thursday -- that he doesn't mind taking pitches early in the count to let them try to steal.
"Our offense works a lot better when they're getting on base and creating havoc on the bases," Holliday said. "It's a positive for the team if they can move up a base. I'm in favor of them stealing all they want."
On the Rox: There are a couple of concessions that manager Clint Hurdle is making because of the schedule, which had the Rockies playing in Boston on Thursday night and returning home to play on Friday night against the Devil Rays. The Rockies had right-hander Rodrigo Lopez, who will start against the Rays, fly home before Thursday's game. Also, Hurdle said he's looking at starting Jamey Carroll on Friday instead of Matsui, because the team's trainers believe it's best that Matsui rest after the plane ride. ... The Rockies' 3.70 ERA in 27 games beginning on May 14 was the fifth best in baseball during that period. ... Rockies third-base coach Mike Gallego missed Thursday's game to attend the high school graduation of his twin sons, Nicholas and Joseph, in Southern California. Nick Gallego, an infielder, was the Rockies' 37th-round draft pick this June. ... Six Double-A Tulsa players were invited to the Texas League All-Star Game: shortstop Jonathan Herrera, outfielder Matt Miller and right-handed pitchers Jarrett Grube, Juan Morillo, Steven Register and Greg Reynolds. Class A Modesto has two All-Stars: right-handed pitchers Brandon Hynick and Andrew Johnston.
Up next: Lopez (2-0, 2.88 ERA) will open the three-game Interleague at home against the Rays on Friday night opposite righty James Shields (6-0, 3.04) at 7:05 p.m. MT.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.