It’s hard to believe, but the Colorado Rockies still have a shot at reaching the playoffs entering the final day of the regular season.
The Rockies, though, need some help and a victory over the NL West champion Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday to stay alive in their bid to reach the postseason for the first time since 1995.
Colorado (88-73) kept its playoff hopes alive with a 11-1 victory on Saturday. The Rockies moved one game behind NL wild card leader San Diego, which lost at Milwaukee earlier in the day.
The Padres’ loss handed Arizona (90-71) the division title, and the Diamondbacks also clinched home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
That means that the Diamondbacks have little incentive to win Sunday, and losing may even help them since it could help create a complicated tiebreaker scenario for the final playoff spots in the NL that would likely jumble the starting rotation of their division series opponent.
In order to stay alive, the Rockies must win and hope the Padres lose again to the Brewers. If those two results occur and both the New York Mets and Philadelphia also win Sunday, it would create a four-way tie for the final two playoff berths in the league.
In that case, the Mets and Phillies would play for the NL East title on Monday. The loser of that game would go into a two-day, three-team tiebreaking set of games for the wild card, with the Rockies getting the choice of having a bye on Tuesday or playing both games at home.
“It’s been a great ride,” Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ll see how it plays out.”
If the NL East title is decided Sunday and the Rockies tie the Padres for the wild card lead, Colorado would host San Diego on Monday for the final playoff spot.
Colorado won for the 12th time in 13 games Saturday as Troy Tulowitzki hit his first career grand slam and Matt Holliday went 2-for-4 to raise his league-leading average to .340. Garrett Atkins added three of the Rockies’ 13 hits.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Holliday said. “It makes you feel a little bit more fresh when these games mean something.”
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, were enjoying six $400 bottles of Cristal purchased by Livan Hernandez to celebrate the franchise’s fourth division title.
“It is appropriate that we have a toast to this club,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said. “A loss like this—we can obviously overcome it.”
Rookie Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4, 4.52 ERA) will start Colorado’s season finale for the second straight year, although the stakes are far higher this time. He made his first major league start to close out 2006, and did not receive a decision after allowing four runs over 6 2-3 innings in an 8-5 loss at the Chicago Cubs.
“I’m ready,” said Jimenez, who was called up from Triple-A Colorado Springs on July 17. “I know it’s important. But it’s a game. It’s going to be a good game.”
Jimenez has struggled this September, going 1-2 with a 5.55 ERA in five outings. He lasted four-plus innings and gave up five runs over five innings in a 9-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
The right-hander has faced Arizona just once this year—a 7-3, 10-inning victory on Aug. 31 in which Jimenez yielded three runs and three hits over 6 2-3 innings.
With nothing to play for, the Diamondbacks will start Yusmeiro Petit (3-4, 5.02) in place of Doug Davis on Sunday. Petit is 2-4 with a 5.48 ERA in nine starts this year, and hasn’t started since Aug. 26.
The 22-year-old right-hander has never pitched against the Rockies. He could make the Diamondbacks’ playoff roster as a reliever after posting a 1.50 ERA in four appearances.