One-game playoff won't be forgotten

One-game playoff won't be forgotten

The Rockies rejoiced and the Padres went home.

One moment, two teams and a season defined for both that became indelible stamps that fans of each franchise will remember forever.

The Rockies raced to their first World Series on the heels of their dramatic extra-inning victory in what was officially the 163rd regular-season game last year.

The Padres became the team that couldn't close, an ironic twist given that they had the game's all-time closer on the hill, ball in hand only to see it beaten around the yard.

And it all can neatly be wrapped around "the slide," Matt Holliday's dash from third on Jamey Carroll's sac fly to right, capped by Holliday's headfirst dive and subsequent swipe of home.

That 9-8, 13-inning victory by the Rockies propelled them into the playoffs and transformed them into a nearly irresistible force that ultimately met Boston's immovable object in the Series.

Being on the wrong end of a Red Sox sweep notwithstanding, the Rockies became one of the best teams in the history of the game, albeit for one brief stretch.

But what a time to get hot.

Closing with 13 wins in 14 games, the Rockies forced the one-game playoff last Oct. 1 as the Padres were unable to close the deal by losing six of their last 10 games, which included getting swept by the Rockies at home just a week earlier.

The Rockies eliminated the Padres in the season's extra session and then rolled past the Phillies and Diamondbacks in the postseason with three-and four-game respective sweeps for a white-hot record of 21 wins in 22 games.

But if not for the game against the Padres, which by all accounts truly earned the description of a classic, it all might have been a case of could have been.

"That was an unreal game, something I'll always remember," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, whose RBI double to center in the bottom of the 13th off Hoffman drove in the Rockies' first of three runs. "It was cool for baseball fans to be able to watch that game."

For the Padres, it was a slide of a different sort, as just one victory in their last three games would have made them and not the Rockies winners of the National League Wild Card. But two losses in Milwaukee produced the encounter with Colorado and a team that was making its own destiny.

And when did the Padres put it out of their minds?

"The minute the umpire called [Holliday] safe," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, whose third-inning grand slam gave the Padres their first advantage of a back-and-forth battle that saw the lead change hands five times.

That was so last season, though, and baseball has a remarkable knack for reliving past successes and horrors.

The Padres will host the Rockies for three games at Petco Park beginning Tuesday, and those set to play are looking forward and not looking back.

"I'm not going to go in and expect anything other than we need to go in and win a game," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. "We need to get a good start out of Ubaldo [Jimenez]."

In many ways, the clubs are in familiar territory and could be heading for a second showdown at season's end. The Padres and Rockies are again looking up at defending NL West champion Arizona in the early going.

Following Jimenez, the Rockies will send left-handers Mark Redman and Jeff Francis to the mound, while the Padres will counter with the left-handed Randy Wolf and right-handers Justin Germano and Jake Peavy.

Padres manager Bud Black hinted at making some adjustments to his rotation, however, bypassing Germano and moving his starters up a day to stay on regular rest. But he dropped that idea and will keep Germano, who has yet to allow a run in 13 innings, in his normal slot.

Aside from some roster tweaks, the two teams are largely the same. Second baseman Kaz Matsui signed a three-year deal to play in Houston, while the Padres signed Jim Edmonds to replace Mike Cameron in center and added second baseman Tadahito Iguchi.

Redman and Franklin Morales earned spots in the Rockies rotation, while Germano nailed down the fifth spot with the Padres and Wolf opted to sign and pitch in San Diego.

But the usual suspects remain.

Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins, Tulowitzki and Holliday still occupy the heart of the Colorado lineup, while Brian Giles, Khalil Greene, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Scott Hairston and Gonzalez are still swinging bats on the Padres.

What is unusual is seeing the Rockies near the bottom of the National League with a .246 team batting average and just 46 runs scored. They led the NL in both categories a year ago.

One switch for the Padres is they've all gotten a year older and have the 37-year-old Edmonds in center flanked by 37-year-old right fielder Giles. Greg Maddux, 42, is in the rotation, and with five shutout innings in Los Angeles on Sunday will not face the Rockies in the upcoming series, but the 40-year-old Hoffman very well could.

Hoffman has four saves on the year, but he's also blown one and been charged with two losses. Combine that with two blown saves and a loss in two of the three games to close out last year, Hoffman's effectiveness has been tested. But Black doesn't have a high level of concern.

"The velocity is fine, his arm action is fine. It's just that his location isn't where we're used to seeing it. That is the big thing," Black said. "And he's not totally erratic. He's just off the plate a little bit and some of the walks are a little bit uncharacteristic."

Hoffman converted Sunday with a 12-pitch save to preserve a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers, while the Rockies may have rediscovered their bats with 15 hits that included three homers in a 13-5 win in Arizona.

The Rockies and Padres will play three this week, but a thriller last fall serves as a lesson to some.

"It wasn't just Colorado but the other games. There could have been a couple of games that maybe I could have had more enthusiasm and that could have made the difference," Gonzalez said. "You have to take every game, and you have to be ready for every game from first pitch."

For others, it's a wonderful memory.

"It was definitely amazing," Rockies catcher Yorvit Torrealba said. "Twenty years from now I'm still going to remember that game."

Mike Scarr is a reporter for Thomas Harding contributed to this story. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.