Commentary

Rockies have Fogg-y outlook on facing Peavy

Originally Published: September 30, 2007
By Michael Knisley | ESPN.com

DENVER -- There's only one October. So says Major League Baseball's postseason marketing campaign, anyway.

And there's only one October baseball game Monday, the first day of the month, instead of the spider web of tiebreaker games that might have been. The Colorado Rockies earned the right to play in it -- well, half-earned the right, anyway; they needed help with the other half -- with a 4-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday at Coors Field as the regular season closed out.

Their prize?

PENNANT PULSE
Top NL pennant race stories from Sunday:
Stark: Phillies do the impossible
Arangure: Mets have no explanation
Nelson: Padres' lost weekend
Knisley: Rockies next up for Peavy
For more on the pennant races, see Hunt for October.
Jake Peavy on Monday.

The San Diego Padres, fresh -- or, more likely, foul -- from two straight losses at the Milwaukee Brewers, finished in a tie with Colorado for the National League's wild-card playoff berth and will play the Rockies on Monday night in Denver in only the seventh one-game tiebreaker in major league history. Colorado plays host to the game by virtue of winning the season series against San Diego, 10 games to eight. First pitch is scheduled for 7:37 p.m. ET on TBS.

A week of fantastically complicated tiebreaking scenarios -- in which it was possible that five NL teams would finish with identical records at the end of Sunday's games -- resolved itself much more simply. The winner of the Rockies-Padres game moves on to play the Philadelphia Phillies in one of the two NL Division Series. The other series matches West champion Arizona against the Central champion Chicago Cubs.

The Padres held Peavy (19-6, 2.36 ERA) back on Sunday rather than pitch him on three days' rest, in hopes of setting him up as the Game 1 starter in the Division Series. Now they will put the NL's likely Cy Young Award winner on the Coors Field mound to face Colorado's Josh Fogg, winner take all ... or all of what the wild card offers, anyway. As Sunday afternoon moved into Sunday evening and the thrill of the Rockies' down-to-the-nub survival game against Arizona wore off, that reality began to settle over the Colorado clubhouse.

"You have to get a good pitch to hit, and then hit it hard," the Rockies' Matt Holliday said about Peavy. Holliday's infield single in the eighth inning Sunday played a critical role in a three-run rally that was the difference against Arizona. "He does a good job of limiting your good pitches to hit. We'll have to take whatever opportunities he does give us."

Serious stuff from one of the top candidates for the NL's Most Valuable Player award. But not for long. Holliday paused for a moment to interrupt his thoughts about Peavy, smiled and said, "I can't believe we have to rely on Josh Fogg."

In other words, no sweat.

Matt Holliday
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesThe Rockies head into Monday's one-game playoff having won 13 of their last 14 games.
Fogg (10-9, 4.79) is known as "Dragon-Slayer" in the Rockies clubhouse because he has been successful in a number of matchups against aces from other teams this season. He beat the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb on Sept. 2, beat the Red Sox's Curt Schilling on the road on June 13, beat the Astros' Roy Oswalt on June 7, beat the Yankees' Mike Mussina (a one-time ace, anyway) on June 19 and outpitched the Dodgers' Brad Penny two weeks ago, although Fogg didn't get the decision in that Rockies' win.

Now it's Peavy, in the biggest game of Fogg's seven-season career.

And Holliday is dissing him.

"I've got that all year," Fogg said. "Go ask 'Tulo' [Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki]. He'll tell you we've got no chance tomorrow. He tells me all about it. 'No way you can beat Peavy. No way you can beat [Derek] Lowe.' He likes to mess around with me. But that's just part of the game. You go out there and make pitches, you can beat anybody on any day."

Momentum is an unreliable ally in baseball, but if it matters Monday, the Rockies should benefit. They go into the tiebreaker with 13 wins in their past 14 games and 22 in their past 29. They essentially have been playing do-or-die baseball since the middle of September, when they were 6½ games back.

Except perhaps for the Peavy factor, Colorado can make the case that it's got the Padres right where it wants them.

"I hope so," said right fielder Brad Hawpe, whose two doubles Sunday drove in three of Colorado's four runs against the Diamondbacks. "They have to travel in from out of town, and they're coming off a loss. We're coming off a good win, and we're at home. We're going to have our crowd, which is big for us."

Because Monday's game counts as a regular-season contest for statistical purposes, it provides an extra opportunity for several milestones to be reached. Peavy, for example, can win 20 games for the first time in his six-year career, and the Rockies can secure the highest all-time fielding percentage in major league history. Through 162 games, Colorado has a .98932 fielding percentage, slightly better than Boston's .98910 last year.

The tiebreaker game also delays by a day a resolution to the NL batting championship race. After Sunday, Holliday leads the league with a .340 average; Atlanta's Chipper Jones finished his season at .337.

Michael Knisley is a senior deputy editor for ESPN.com

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