November 24, 2014

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Rockies pull off improbable rally, beat Padres for final playoff spot

DENVER — In a season that needed an extra day, Matt Holliday and the Colorado Rockies needed extra innings to pull off the most dramatic comeback yet.
Holliday raced home on Jamey Carroll’s shallow fly ball, capping a stunning, three-run rally in the 13th inning against Trevor Hoffman and leading the Rockies over the San Diego Padres 9-8 Monday night in a tiebreaker for the NL wild card.
“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 baseball’s career saves leader.
The Rockies, who won for the 14th time in 15 games, took the longest one-game tiebreaker in major league history. They advanced to play Philadelphia in the first round starting Wednesday.
Kaz Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki, who had four hits, lined back-to-back doubles off Hoffman, making it 8-7. 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.
“I don’t know. He hit me pretty good,” Holliday said. “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.”
Carroll entered the game as a pinch-runner in the seventh inning 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.”
Hoffman (4-5), who has 524 career saves, blew his seventh chance in 49 tries. On Saturday, he was one strike away 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.
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. Brian Giles drew a leadoff walk and Hairston homered into the bleachers in left-center.
The Rockies didn’t flinch.
It was sweet atonement for Holliday, who misplayed Giles’ fly ball into an RBI double off Brian Fuentes with the Rockies ahead by 6-5 in the eighth that scored Geoff Blum from second base with the tying run.
The Rockies and Padres were tied at 6 in the 163rd game of the season for each team, 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 stranded 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 to give Colorado a 6-5 lead.
Colorado took an early 3-0 lead only to watch Adrian Gonzalez erase it with his first career grand slam in the third inning, which Peavy ignited a five-run rally 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 allowed 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.

Notable

The Rockies thought Garrett Atkins homered in the seventh, but umpire Tim Tschida ruled it hit the yellow railing and bounced back.
Helton’s 1,578 games in the majors are the third-most by any active player without a playoff appearance.