Until Saturday, the Padres had lost eight consecutive NLDS games to the Cardinals and this was only Hoffman's third appearance, second with the game on the line. He came into Game 3 in 1996 in the top of the ninth inning with the score tied, 5-5. The Cardinals scored twice and won the series.But Hoffman said those memories weren't even a flicker in his mind as he took the field. A man who holds the record with nearly a 90-percent save conversion rate in his career seems impervious of not closing the deal. "All you can do is go out and do the next job you get," Hoffman said. "I don't know how you do it. There's some resiliency. You've got to forget. But I think if you dwell on it, then you become timid. And you can't be timid in the ninth inning. With me, with the pitches I feature, if I'm not aggressive, the hitters are going to feed on that. You have to say, 'I'm coming right at you.' If it's good enough, it's good enough." Hoffman was hardly timid on Saturday. As the mid-afternoon autumn shadows began to creep from home plate toward the mound at Busch Stadium, Hoffman mixed up his fastball, slider and changeup to dispatch the Cardinals within minutes. It was vintage Hoffman. As soon as Jim Edmonds hit his first offering to the warning track in center, there was the sense that the jig was up. Scott Rolen grounded meekly to short and Juan Encarnacion struck out swinging. Six of the seven pitches were strikes, meaning Hoffman never fell behind on the count. "With a two-run lead, you don't want to put a guy on and give them a chance to pop one and tie the ballgame up," Hoffman said. "The shadows added to the deception of my changeup." Whatever it was, it was magic to watch Hoffman pull the genie out of the bottle for once in the postseason. It was more than overdue. "Twenty years from now, nobody's going to remember me for the few bad outings I've had," he said. "That's not how I'm going to be defined." But they will remember Hoffman for that and they do already. Just like the Yankees' Mariano Rivera will be defined by his 17-7 record, 34 saves and 0.81 earned run average in the postseason, although most of that success now seems like a distant memory. "It goes along with the territory that everything is magnified [in the playoffs]," Hoffman said. "You've got to seize the moment." Consider Saturday's moment seized.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.