Rockies relive '07 classic with Padres
Two teams meet on Thursday for first time since October
PEORIA, Ariz. -- It had been five months and five days since the Rockies and Padres last met, but many of the principals from last October's Wild Card tiebreaker at Coors Field were squaring off again on Thursday in Peoria.
Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki, Garret Atkins, Matt Holliday and Seth Smith, who combined for nine hits on that memorable October 1, were back in the lineup, with Jake Peavy back on the hill and Trevor Hoffman, poised to exorcise any lingering demons of that debilitating defeat, waiting in the bullpen.
Scott Hairston, Khalil Greene, and Michael Barrett were back on the field for the Friars, with Barrett just waiting for another chance to make a big play at the plate.
It took 13 innings to separate these two teams when they were deadlocked after 162 games last fall, and though Thursday's rematch was merely Cactus League action, with half the players out of the park long before the game ended, the first rematch since Game 163 couldn't help but rekindle some memories.
"It was probably one of the greatest games," Matt Holliday said, echoing the sentiments of baseball fans everywhere who were captivated by the contest. "Obviously, winning the NLCS, putting us in the World Series [may have been bigger], but as far as the game, back and forth, great plays, defense, hitting, pitching, as far as that goes, I've never played in a game quite like that."
The game's unlikely conclusion came with the Rockies rallying against Hoffman in the 13th inning and Holliday's elusive slide at the plate on a Jamey Carroll sacrifice fly. Hoffman wasted no time broaching the subject, pitching a one-two-three seventh in Peoria, signing a slew of autographs as he left the field, and saluting the Colorado contingency as he headed for the clubhouse.
"Congratulations," Hoffman smiled. "You guys had a fun run."
It was the game that got the Rockies into the playoffs, and it was win No. 14 of their 21-of-22 run, but Holliday also counts it as the game that prepared the Rockies for their next seven straight wins -- sweeping the Phillies and Diamondbacks out of the Division Series and NLCS, respectively.
"Playing in a game with that magnitude helped us out in the playoffs," Holliday said. "It turned out to be basically a playoff game. It was such a great game, so back and forth, and just the intensity of it, and what was on the line. It was a lot of fun. A great game.
"I have a lot of friends on that [Padres] team. Those are guys I really enjoy competing against. You wish it hadn't turned out the way it did for them, but at the same time, we're happy that it did for us."
The first chance for Peavy to face the Rockies again wasn't exactly a red-letter day on his calendar.
"Zero emotion out there today," Peavy said when asked if facing the Rockies again was especially meaningful for him. He further kept his emotion in check when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki took him deep to left in the first inning, perhaps putting a coda on the single, double, and triple he'd hit off Peavy last October.
"It definitely brings back some memories," Tulowitzki said. "Obviously, the last game we played against the Padres was that playoff game. And then you get the fans at the field, they're always yelling at Holliday, asking if he touched home plate. We get a good laugh out of that. The main thing is we won, so that's our best memory."
The "Postscript in Peoria" on Thursday, a convincing 10-3 victory for the Padres, was not about to offset the memories from either dugout, but it reminded both teams of where they were at the end of the season and where they want to be come October of '08.
"I kind of like the way the things ended up with the Padres last year," admitted manager Clint Hurdle. "I don't think a Spring Training tilt is going to knock any of the glamour off that. I didn't get any warm fuzzies out there today."
Though the Rockies characteristically chose not to dwell on the past, they can't help but acknowledge the importance of their October experience as they seek to satisfy their appetite for more of the same this season.
"We were ecstatic where we were, but how it ended was not how you want it to end," Matt Herges said after throwing two innings of scoreless ball on Thursday, rekindling the memory of his crucial three-inning scoreless stint in the tiebreaker. "But last year is last year, and I'm sure that's [the Padres'] outlook, too. What we have in front of us is what's most important right now.
"Coming into the spring, sure, we're a little more hungry. Now we have expectations. Not only from everyone else, but from within our clubhouse. We expect to be one of the best teams in baseball. It's a little different than it was last spring."
The mutual respect between the two teams doesn't quite call up memories of one of the other all-time great regular season tiebreakers, the 1978 showdown at Fenway Park between the Yankees and their Red Sox rivals, ending with soon-to-be-minted Hall of Famer Goose Gossage retiring Boston great Carl Yaztrzmski to cap a comeback from a 14-game deficit and propel the Bronx Bombers to their second consecutive World Series championship.
But that, and the Giants' Bobby Thompson's "shot heard round the world" pennant-winner, is the kind of company the game keeps, making it hard not to cast the mind back from time to time.
Holliday admitted thinking back on the game "some, during the offseason," though not, mind you, at the prompting of fans querying him about tagging home.
"But it's time to turn the page and get ready for '08," he summed up. "We've got a new team, it's a new year, so it's time for us to forget about what's happened in the past and move on and get ready."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.