As I watched what many called an instant classic last night between the A's and Royals at Kaufmann Stadium, my mind couldn't help but wander to a similar game in Denver seven years ago. In fact, I tweeted as much as the AL Wild Card playoff was unfolding.
I'd say I've never seen anything like this, but I was at a game like this seven years ago.— Jordan Freemyer (@jfreemyer) October 1, 2014
However, last night's game didn't have a journeyman facing a Cy Young winner, a comeback against one of the greatest closers of all-time, a controversial non-home run call or a team winning their 14th game out of 15 to reach the playoffs, which is why I still rate the Rockies win over the Padres in 2007 as the best one-game playoff in baseball history.
I remember being at that game like it was yesterday, but I honestly had to look up the final score of the 2007 tiebreaker because when you were there at Coors Field, it didn't matter if it was 2-1 or 9-8, all that mattered was that the Rockies had one more run than the Padres and were going to the playoffs.
Before the one-game Wild Card playoff became a treasured part of MLB's postseason, the Rockies won 13 of their final 14 regular season games in 2007 to force a playoff against San Diego for the NL Wild Card. By virtue of a coin flip, the playoff took place at Coors Field on October 1.
The Padres seemed to have the advantage entering the game, as their rotation was set up so that Jake Peavy, the unanimous NL Cy Young Award winner in 2007, would get the start. As for the Rockies, they had Josh Fogg, who entered the playoff with a 4.79 ERA in 161 2/3 innings. However, Fogg earned the nickname "Dragonslayer" in 2007, having taken down the likes of Roy Oswalt, Curt Shilling, Mike Mussina and Brandon Webb over the course of the season.
Here were the lineups for the tiebreaker that night:
San Diego Padres at Colorado Rockies, October 1, 2007
|SAN DIEGO PADRES||COLORADO ROCKIES|
|Brian Giles - RF||Kazuo Matsui - 2B|
|Scott Hairston - LF||Troy Tulowitzki - SS|
|Kevin Kouzmanoff - 3B||Matt Holliday - LF|
|Adrian Gonzalez - 1B||Todd Helton - 1B|
|Khalil Greene - SS||Garrett Atkins - 3B|
|Josh Bard - C||Brad Hawpe - RF|
|Geoff Blum - 2B||Ryan Spilborghs - CF|
|Brady Clark - CF||Yorvit Torrealba - C|
|Jake Peavy - RHP||Josh Fogg - RHP|
The Rockies got to Peavy in the top of the first, with Kazuo Matsui leading off with a double, which was followed by a Troy Tulowitzki single and a walk to Matt Holliday that loaded the bases for Todd Helton. Peavy did finally retire a batter as Helton flew out to deep center field, but it was enough to score Matsui for the first run of the game. Garrett Atkins then singled home Tulowitzki, giving the Rockies a 2-0 lead before Peavy got out of the inning.
Yorvit Torrealba then extended the Rockies lead to 3-0, lining a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence to lead off the second inning against Peavy.
San Diego battled back in the top of the third, as Fogg gave up singles to Peavy and Scott Hairston sandwiched around a walk to Brian Giles, meaning the bases were loaded with one out for Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, as he did so often in 2007, provided the offense for the Padres, taking Fogg deep to right field for a grand slam, giving San Diego a 4-3 lead.
The Padres loaded the bases a second time in the third, but Brady Clark could only muster an RBI ground out, giving his team a 5-3 lead through two-and-a-half innings.
The Rockies got a run back in the bottom of the third against Peavy, thanks to a solo home run from the best player in franchise history, Helton, who belted the first pitch he saw into the right field stands. They then tied the game in the fourth with Tulo leading the inning off the inning with a double and scoring on Holliday's single to tie the game at five.
Colorado took the lead in the sixth with a second sacrifice fly of the game, this one from Matsui to score pinch hitter Seth Smith, who had tripled.
Controversy then struck in the bottom of the seventh, as the Rockies looked to have extended their lead to 7-5 when Atkins drove a ball to left that looked to have hit a railing beyond the fence in left-center, but was ruled to have hit the yellow line at the top of the fence for a double. As for my opinion of the play, let's just say if we had 2014's replay procedure in 2007, Atkins would have hit a home run and the Rockies win that game 7-6 in nine innings.
Atkins' double did chase Peavy from the game, and reliever Heath Bell stranded him on second, keeping the game at 6-5 through seven frames.
After the controversy, San Diego leveled the score at six in the top of the eighth against Brian Fuentes, who gave up a leadoff single to Geoff Blum and retiring the next two hitters before Giles doubled on a fly ball that fell in over Holliday's head, plating Blum as the tying run.
Neither team threatened again until the top of the 10th, when Rockies reliever Matt Herges issued a two-out walk to Terrmel Sledge and a single to Michael Barrett before retiring Giles to end the inning. Herges again found himself in a jam in the 11th, with two on and one out, but got out of it by inducing a double play ball off the bat of Greene.
The Rockies mounted a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the 11th, as Helton walked and Jamey Carroll singled, but noted lefty-killer Joe Thatcher struck out Hawpe to end the threat.
The deadlock was finally broken in the top of the 13th as the Rockies brought in their eighth reliever of the night, right-hander Jorge Julio. Julio walked Giles to lead off the inning before giving up a two-run home run to Hairston, giving the Padres an 8-6 lead. Julio then gave up a single to Chase Headley before being removed in favor of Ramon Ortiz, who retired the next three batters to end the inning. (By the way, Ramon Ortiz as the winning pitcher in the 2007 tiebreaker is a great piece of Rockies trivia.)
The good news for the Rockies entering the bottom of the 13th was that they had the top of their order, Matsui, Tulowitzki and Holliday, coming up, but the bad news was they would be facing Trevor Hoffman, who at the time held the MLB record with 524 career saves, including 42 in 2007 to go with a 2.53 ERA. He had also allowed just one baserunner, who was erased on a double play, in five appearances against the Rockies in 2007.
Matsui got the inning started on the right foot, lacing Hoffman's 2-2 pitch into the right-center field gap for his second double of the game, bringing Tulowitzki to the plate as the tying run. Tulowitzki followed Matsui's double with one of his own, cutting the San Diego lead to 8-7 and giving Holliday, whose defensive blunder in the eighth allowed the Padres to tie the game, a chance to be the hero.
Off the bat, it looked like Holliday had hit a two-run, walk off home run, but his line drive hit the out-of-town scoreboard in right field as Giles crashed into it and the Rockies' left fielder wound up at third with an RBI triple, tying the game at eight. Hoffman then intentionally walked Helton to set up the right-on-right matchup with Carroll.
After a mound visit from Padres manager Bud Black, Carroll hit Hoffman's first pitch into shallow right, Giles caught it, and Holliday tagged up from third. The throw beat the runner, but Barrett never caught it cleanly, Holliday was safe and the Rockies were in the playoffs, having won 14 of their last 15 games to get there.
Obviously what the Rockies did next, sweeping their way to the pennant, makes the win over the Padres that much more special, but that one-game playoff was a classic on its own merit. The Kansas City win last night was a great game no doubt, but for me, it wasn't as good as the game in 2007, especially if the Royals flame out in the Division Series against the Angels.
The Rockies-Padres tiebreaker in 2007 remains the greatest game I've ever seen, in person or otherwise, and it will take something truly epic to knock it off its perch. Here's hoping we get more October baseball in Colorado sooner rather than later.