The Colorado Rockies' late-season surge set up one wild finish.
The Rockies will host San Diego in a one-game tiebreaker for the NL wild-card spot tonight at 7:37, having forced the playoff with a 4-3 win at home yesterday over the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks.
A single by would-be batting champion Matt Holliday set up the Rockies' go-ahead, three-run burst in the eighth inning, then closer Manny Corpas held off Arizona's two-run rally in the ninth for the Rockies' 13th win in 14 games.
San Diego and Colorado will play at Coors Field for the final playoff spot in the majors. Tonight's winner will play the Phillies in a best-of-five Division Series, starting Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park.
The Padres, who missed a chance to clinch the slot by losing their last two games at Milwaukee, plan to pitch ace Jake Peavy. The Rockies will counter with Josh Fogg, whose tendency to beat other teams' aces of late has earned him the nickname "Dragon Slayer."
Momentum is nice, Holliday said, but it won't matter tonight.
"I don't think anything will help us tomorrow other than going out and getting hits off Jake Peavy," Holliday said. "Everything's out the window. Tomorrow's one game. Everything in the last 2 weeks is in the past and now we've got to focus on beating the Padres for a chance to go to the playoffs."
This will be baseball's first one-game playoff since 1999, when the New York Mets beat Cincinnati, 5-0, for the NL wild card.
Holliday went 1-for-3 and is hitting a league-leading .340. He leads Atlanta's Chipper Jones by three points for the batting title - tonight's playoff counts as a regular-season game, and Holliday will win the crown provided he doesn't go 0-for-5.
Holliday has his mind on matters much more important than that, however.
"It's not even close. We've got our playoff lives on the line," said Holliday, who led the league in doubles, hits and total bases and has a chance to leapfrog Ryan Howard for the RBI title, too. Howard has 136 RBI and Holliday has 135.
Peavy has a chance to join Boston's Josh Beckett as the only 20-game winners in the majors this year. But even if he does, the Padres would head into the divisional playoffs with their ace unavailable for Game 1.
Looking like they were out of contention just 2 weeks ago, the Rockies rallied to catch the Padres. San Diego missed its chance to clinch yesterday with an 11-6 loss to the Brewers.
Brett Tomko (4-12) cruised through the first three innings as the Padres took a 3-0 lead, but then fell apart. He allowed five runs and five hits in 4 1/3 innings.
The Rockies, who have won franchise-best 89 games, have been to the postseason just once, in 1995 when they lost to Atlanta in the first round.
The Diamondbacks, who on Saturday clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs, sat most of their regulars and skipped lefthander Doug Davis' scheduled start to save him for the playoffs.
Peavy is 0-0 with a 1.29 ERA in two starts against the Rockies this year. He is 4-4 lifetime against the Rockies, 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA at Coors Field. Fogg is 1-1 with a 6.28 ERA in three starts against the Padres in '07 and 3-2 with a 5.48 ERA lifetime.
Padres manager Bud Black is not worried there will be a carryover effect from the two crucial losses to the Brewers. "I don't think so," he said. "Today we came out and scored three runs in the first inning, so there was really no hangover from yesterday. We just didn't make enough pitches in the middle part of the game and we couldn't add on to the three runs in the first." *