Needing one win to ensure a trip to the 2007 postseason for the third straight year, the Padres jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one inning but ultimately fell to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday, 11-6, in the final game of the regular season.
Coupled with Colorado's win against Arizona, San Diego will now travel to face the Rockies at 4:37 p.m. PT on Monday, with a Wild Card berth awarded to the winner. Both clubs finished the regular season with 89-73 records.
"They're a good team, especially here at home," Padres manager Bud Black said of the Brewers, a team that rallied for an extra-inning win in Saturday's game after being down to their final strike. "They have a great home record (51-30) and they showed it the last two games. They can hit, and they hit today. We helped them a little with the base on balls, but they got some clutch hits when they needed it."
Brett Tomko (4-12), tabbed to start while Black saved ace Jake Peavy for a potential tiebreaker game, looked nearly flawless through three innings and still had the lead after four. But nine Brewers came to the plate in the fifth, and Tomko was out after 4 1/3 frames.
"I went out there to try to win the game and didn't get it done," Tomko said. "I felt like I let the guys down. It's a tough one to swallow. With what went on in my year, to finish up strong ... I feel like I let everybody down. I realize in the scheme of it, it's one game and there is a tomorrow. But I'm disappointed."
Tomko, signed by San Diego on Sept. 4 after Los Angeles waived the right-hander, had been 2-0 with a 3.52 ERA in three previous starts since joining the club, and the Padres had won all three games. He had allowed two hits with five strikeouts through three, but Corey Hart's solo home run in the fourth capped a two-run inning that began Tomko's undoing.
"They pieced together some base hits," Tomko said. "I don't think I lost it or mechanics got out of whack."
One batter after Tomko's departure, Ryan Braun tied the game against reliever Cla Meredith with a smash single that eluded the glove of Geoff Blum at second base. Hart followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly to center, and Joe Dillon drove home an insurance run with a single, giving the Brewers a 6-4 edge. Gabe Gross hit a bases-clearing double against Doug Brocail in the sixth to pad the lead.
"This team was playing for a winning season, and they have a lot of pride, even with three games left in the season," said Brian Giles, whose 444-foot leadoff home run sparked a first-inning rally. "That was a good ballclub, a young team, and they've got nothing to be ashamed of. They're in it to win, and they're going to be a force in the NL Central for years to come."
After San Diego eliminated Milwaukee from the playoffs Friday, the Brewers won both opportunities to play the spoiler role.
"'Soup' [Milwaukee starter Jeff Suppan] did a good job putting up zeros and keeping his team in the game," Giles said. "We weren't able to add on and put the nail in the coffin."
The club could have opted to bring Peavy back on short rest for the regular-season finale, but Black said the plan to have Peavy available on regular rest in the tiebreaker had been in place for some time.
"If that was the case, we feel good with Jake obviously, the way he's been throwing this year on regular rest in a very important game," Black said.
After Giles rudely greeted Suppan (12-12), San Diego pieced together a two-out rally for two additional scores in the opening frame. Blum's double drove home both.
The Brewers drew within a run in the fourth, but Greene got one back immediately in the fifth with his 27th home run of the year, giving the Padres a 4-2 edge.
Kevin Kouzmanoff went deep in the ninth against Francisco Cordero, tying Benito Santiago's club rookie record of 18 home runs in a season. Adrian Gonzalez homered thereafter, and Khalil Greene fell a few feet short of back-to-back-to-back home runs. The Padres piled on two additional hits before Brady Clark flied out to close the regular season.
Players lingered in the clubhouse to watch Colorado rally for three runs in the eighth for a 4-1 lead, then hold on for a 4-3 win to force the tiebreaker.
JR Radcliffe is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.