Rocky Mountain Drama
They played as if they never wanted the season to end, and they had already gotten an extra day.
The NL wild card came down to a wild, 13-inning finish Monday night that put Matt Holliday and the Colorado Rockies into the playoffs and sent Trevor Hoffman and the San Diego Padres home weary and dazed.
Holliday raced home on Jamey Carroll's shallow fly ball, capping a three-run rally against the all-time saves leader, giving the Rockies a 9-8 win in baseball's longest one-game tiebreaker.
``It's been an incredible run from game 1 to game 163,'' Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. ``This is just a snapshot of what we've been through.''
After Scott Hairston's two-run homer put the Padres ahead in the top of the 13th, Colorado came back against Hoffman.
The Rockies won for the 14th time in 15 games and advanced to play at Philadelphia in the first round starting Wednesday.
Colorado trailed 8-6 when Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki, who had four hits, lined back-to-back doubles off Hoffman. Then Holliday tripled off the wall in right to tie it.
After Todd Helton was intentionally walked, Carroll lined out to right fielder Brian Giles.
Giles' throw home bounced in front of catcher Michael Barrett, who couldn't hold on as Holliday swiped the plate, then lay face-down after cutting his chin with his headfirst slide. Umpire Tim McClelland made a delayed safe call, and replays were inconclusive on whether Holliday touched the plate with his left hand or was blocked by Barrett's left foot.
Holliday said he wasn't sure if he touched the plate, although the ball bounced away anyway.
``The ump said I was safe,'' Holliday said. ``I don't remember. But I hit my chin pretty good. I got stepped on and banged my chin. I'm all right.''
Said Padres manager Bud Black: ``It looked to me like he did get it.''
While their MVP candidate was on the ground bleeding, the rest of the Rockies were celebrating.
Hoffman (4-5) could do little but walk off the mound with his head down. The closer, who has 524 career saves, blew his seventh chance in 49 tries this year.
On Saturday, Hoffman was one strike from clinching a playoff spot when Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a tying triple for Milwaukee, which went on to win 4-3 in 11 innings.
``I'm having a hard time expressing myself right now,'' Hoffman said. ``I wish I could, but I can't after what happened tonight.''
The Rockies won the longest game at Coors Field this season behind Holliday, the MVP candidate who clinched the NL batting title at .340. His triple also gave him the league RBI crown with 137, one more than Philadelphia's Ryan Howard.
It was sweet atonement for Holliday, who misplayed Giles' two-out flyball in the eighth inning into a tying RBI double.
``I'm glad we won or that might have haunted me for the rest of my life,'' Holliday said. ``It worked out, and luckily I don't have to think about it.''
Carroll entered as a pinch-runner in the seventh and stayed in to play third base. He got one hit before finding himself in position to hit the sacrifice fly that won it.
``I was just trying to get a ball up in the zone,'' Carroll said. ``Had a guy at third. Matty did a great job. Matty ran his butt off. I am so happy that we get this opportunity to go on.''
Ramon Ortiz (1-0) got the win. He was the Rockies' 10th pitcher, taking over after Jorge Julio gave up Hairston's homer.
``All we kept saying was 'hold 'em at two, hold 'em at two,''' Hurdle said.
The Rockies are headed to the playoffs for the first time since 1995, when they lost to Atlanta in the first round.
After stranding runners at second in the 10th, 11th and 12th off Matt Herges, the Padres broke through against Julio. Giles drew a leadoff walk and Hairston homered into the bleachers in left-center.
The Rockies didn't flinch.
Colorado and San Diego were tied at 6 in the first play-in game since the New York Mets beat Cincinnati 5-0 for the 1999 NL wild card.
In the bottom of the eighth, Holliday compounded his blunder in the field by stranding the go-ahead run at second when he whiffed against Health Bell, who relieved ineffective Padres ace Jake Peavy.
Manny Corpas went 1-2-3 in the top of the ninth, and Bell sent the game into extra innings by retiring the side in the bottom half, stranding the potential winning run at first base.
The big hit for Colorado earlier came from September callup Seth Smith, who tripled in the sixth and scored on Matsui's shallow sacrifice fly for a 6-5 lead.
Colorado went ahead 3-0 early only to watch Adrian Gonzalez erase the margin with his first career grand slam in a five-run third inning, which Peavy ignited with a single.
The Rockies came back to tie on Helton's 17th homer in the bottom half and Holliday's RBI single in the fifth off Peavy, who looked little like the Cy Young Award candidate he's been this season.
Peavy allowed six runs and 10 hits in 6 1-3 innings. He failed in his bid for his 20th win - Boston's Josh Beckett was the only pitcher this year to achieve the feat.
Rockies starter Josh Fogg gave up five runs and eight hits in four-plus innings.
The Rockies won a franchise-best 90 games and are owners of the second-best record in the majors since mid-May.
Helton, the subject of trade rumors last winter, is heading to the postseason for the first time in his 11-year career. His 1,578 games in the majors are the third-most by any active player without a playoff appearance.
``That's the best shower I ever had in my life,'' a drenched Helton said in the clubhouse. ``I never knew champagne could feel so good.''
Notes: The Rockies thought Garrett Atkins homered in the seventh, but umpire Tim Tschida ruled it hit the yellow railing and bounced back. Crew chief Ed Montague told The Associated Press all six umpires agreed ``it hit the yellow pad and came back. The yellow pad was in play. (Hurdle) said it was over. But we looked at that and there's no way it went over.'' ... It was the first time San Diego had a two-run lead in extras and lost since June 13, 2004, when the Padres dropped a 6-5, 12-inning decision at Yankee Stadium, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us
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