|San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies Battle for NL Wild Card|
|Monday, 01 October 2007 01:49|
Do or Die
The San Diego Padres appear to have the right guy on the mound for a winner-take-all matchup. Judging by their production down the stretch, the Colorado Rockies seem to have the right lineup to face him.
Ace Jake Peavy gets the start Monday when the Padres meet the red-hot Rockies in a one-game playoff to determine the NL wild card winner. This is the first playoff to determine a postseason berth since the New York Mets blanked Cincinnati in 1999 to earn the wild card.
The winner of this contest advances to play NL East champion Philadelphia in a division series.
San Diego could have nailed down a postseason spot outright by winning either of its last two regular-season games. The Padres were one strike away from wrapping up a victory Saturday at Milwaukee, but all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman gave up a game-tying triple to Tony Gwynn Jr. in an eventual 4-3 loss in 11 innings.
San Diego also fell 11-6 on Sunday to the Brewers, and Colorado took advantage with a 4-3 victory over NL West champion Arizona. It was the Rockies' 13th in 14 games, and left them needing one more win to secure their first playoff berth since 1995.
"I don't think anything will help us tomorrow other than going out and getting hits off Jake Peavy," Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday said. "Everything's out the window. Tomorrow's one game.
"Everything in the last two weeks is in the past and now we've got to focus on beating the Padres for a chance to go to the playoffs."
San Diego rookie manager Bud Black's decision to hold back Peavy (19-6, 2.36 ERA) for a possible playoff rather than use him short rest Sunday turned out to be a fortuitous one. With a 10-1 record and 2.20 ERA in his last 13 starts, Peavy is a front-runner for NL Cy Young Award.
"I think the spirits and the mood right now is a little downtrodden, but we're going to get it up," Peavy said. "I'm not going to let this happen (Monday). I can promise you it'll be a new day, the boys will be excited. I mean, this is why we play the game."
The hard-throwing right-hander has turned in the best season of his six-year career, posting the majors' lowest ERA to go along with an NL-high 234 strikeouts. He's also the majors' best pitcher on the road, going 10-1 with a 2.16 ERA in 14 outings.
Peavy has no record and a 1.29 ERA in two starts against the Rockies this year, but neither was at Coors Field - he's 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA in six career starts there.
"They're as good as anybody in baseball," Peavy said of the Rockies. "But they're definitely a beatable team."
They haven't been one recently as Colorado went a major league-best 20-8 in September, thanks mostly to a surging offense that scored an NL-leading 172 runs. The trio of NL MVP candidate Holliday, Garrett Atkins and Todd Helton all put together spectacular efforts at the plate over the final full month of the season to help the Rockies set up the showdown.
Holliday batted .367 with 12 homers, a team-high 30 RBIs and 29 runs in September. He also leads the NL with a .340 average, three points ahead of Atlanta's Chipper Jones. Atkins batted .390 with five homers, 17 RBIs and 19 runs.
It also was a special month for Helton, who had 20 RBIs and 21 runs to go with a .390 average. The 11-year veteran has never been to the postseason, but knows there's one more game to be played.
"We still haven't finished it,'' he said. "One hundred sixty-three games. It all comes down to tomorrow."
Helton is 12-for-35 (.343) in his career against Peavy, while Holliday is 6-for-15 (.400) and Atkins 5-for-15 (.333).
Josh Fogg (10-9, 4.79) looks to defeat another top-notch starter when he gets the ball for Colorado. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 2.94 ERA in his last six outings, including wins over San Diego's Chris Young and Arizona's Brandon Webb - the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.
In his last start, Fogg scattered five hits, walked three and struck out five in 6 2-3 innings Wednesday to lead the Rockies to a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. The veteran right-hander is 3-2 with a 5.48 ERA in his career against San Diego, including 1-1 with a 6.28 ERA in three outings this season.
The Rockies went 10-8 against the Padres this season, including a three-game road sweep from Sept. 21-23 that was part of their late surge.
by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us
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