Rally Rockies take Wild victory in 13th
After Padres take late lead, Carroll drives in game-winner
DENVER -- The Rockies were down two runs and not even out of the top of the 13th inning of Monday night's National League Wild Card tiebreaker when Todd Helton, the former Tennessee Volunteers football quarterback, huddled his teammates.
Helton called the play that would defeat Padres closer extraordinaire Trevor Hoffman in the bottom of the inning and touch off a postgame shower of champagne and beer.
Staying as patient as their leader said to, Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki doubled, and Matt Holliday tripled and scored on Jamey Carroll's sacrifice fly for a 9-8 victory, sending the Rockies to the NL Division Series and touching off bedlam from a sellout crowd of 48,404.
"I want to get to the World Series and experience that, but I'm going to enjoy this right now," said a dripping Holliday, who homered Monday and will be a part of the Rockies' second playoff appearance in their 15-year history -- the first since 1995 -- starting Wednesday against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said, "My words aren't going to do justice to the players' actions, this team's actions, this year. They've given so much of themselves. They've bonded so well. They've competed so fiercely."
It was fitting that Holliday, who went 2-for-6 with two RBIs to finish with the league's best batting average (.340) and most RBIs (137), would have the key hit and emerge bloodied and dazed after a collision with Michael Barrett -- while scoring the winner. It was unclear whether he actually physically touched the plate, though the ball also got away from Barrett.
Even more apropos was the way Helton, a Rockies mainstay since 1997 who is finally going to the playoffs, rounded up his club for the final push.
Hitting is never far from Helton's mind. It was during a pitching change, after Jorge Julio had given up the Scott Hairston two-run homer that put the Rockies down, 8-6, in the top of the 13th, that Holliday spread the message.
Hoffman (4-5), baseball's all-time saves leader with 524, suffered his seventh blown save after 42 successes in 2007. But he has never done well at Coors, going just 1-4 with a 6.03 ERA in 31 appearances that have included 20 saves.
"Like I told all the guys, we've got to put good at-bats together [and] not try to do too much," said a dripping Helton, who accepted an intentional walk from Hoffman in the inning. "He's got such a good changeup, you've got to stay back. We have to see the ball as long as possible."
National League Division Series schedule
|Wed., Oct. 3||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||6 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||1 p.m.||Wrigley Field||TNT|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||10 p.m.||Chase Field||TBS|
|Wed., Oct. 3||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Thu., Oct. 4||3 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|Sat. Oct. 6||9:30 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Sun. Oct. 7||10 p.m.||Coors Field||TBS|
|*Tue. Oct. 9||6:30 p.m.||Citizens Bank Park||TBS|
|* If necessary. All times ET.|
With Helton, after 1,577 games, and Diamondbacks infielder Jeff Cirillo, after 1,617 games, going to the playoffs this season, the Mets' Damion Easley, who has played 1,593 games, has the unwanted distinction of playing the most games without experiencing the postseason.
The victory capped an improbable run that saw the Rockies win 14 of their final 15 regular-season games -- counting the tiebreaker.
However, this most unusual of games had an odd familiarity. For example:
Starting pitcher Josh Fogg, known to teammates as "The Dragon Slayer" because he has beaten big-name pitchers such as Brandon Webb, Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina this season, didn't beat the Padres' Jake Peavy, but he did outpitch him.
Fogg went four innings, giving up eight hits, and might have won had it not been for a tough third inning that saw him yield five runs, including an Adrian Gonzalez grand slam. Gonzalez drove in 19 runs in 18 games against the Rockies this season. But Helton and Yorvit Torrealba would produce solo shots among the 10 hits and six runs the Rockies scored against Peavy in 6 1/3 innings.
|"My words aren't going to do justice to the players' actions, this team's actions, this year. They've given so much of themselves. They've bonded so well. They've competed so fiercely."|
|-- Rockies manager Clint Hurdle|
The Rockies would lose a potential home run on an umpire's call on a ball that appeared to have been over the fence. Garrett Atkins' seventh-inning fly ball to left-center looked as if it hit a chair past the fence, but umpires ruled that it hit the padded yellow strip atop the wall.
"It's the way our season's being going all year, just wrapped in one game, but we never gave up," said Atkins, who wound up with a double. The team was unable to score in the inning, and the 6-5 lead at the time would not last.
Headliners such as Helton, Holliday -- who overcame misplaying Brian Giles' fly ball into an RBI double for the tying run in the eighth -- and Rookie of the Year candidate Tulowitzki (4-for-7) weren't the only contributors.
Pinch-hitter Seth Smith, who was injured at the time of final-month callups and didn't appear until Sept. 16, tripled and scored off Peavy in the sixth.
The Rockies used nine relievers, including asking Matt Herges to pitch the 10th through the 12th -- his second three-inning appearance all season. Ramon Ortiz (5-4 overall, 1-0 since joining the Rockies), had been ineffective after being acquired in an Aug. 15 trade with the Twins and hadn't appeared since Sept. 15. Yet Ortiz struck out Gonzalez and forced a pair of fly balls to end the 13th.
Shortly thereafter, the Rockies were all wet.
"I've seen this on TV a lot and I'm excited to be part of it," Holliday said. "I've always wanted to spray whatever that stuff is all over the place."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.