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Padres have fate in their own hands

Padres have fate in their own hands

MILWAUKEE -- They never intended to play a 163rd game of the 2007 season, nor did they expect to be huddled around a television in the visiting clubhouse at Miller Park, waiting for a score of a game hundreds of miles away that would change which direction they flew late Sunday.

Then again, 21 teams in Major League Baseball won't be where the Padres will be Monday -- still fighting for a playoff spot in that 163rd game of the season.

After dropping the last two games of a four-game series to the Brewers, the last coming Sunday in an 11-6 loss, the Padres put their fate in the hands of others for the first time all season long.

And when the Colorado Rockies put the squeeze on the final out of a victory over Arizona, it meant the Padres -- who two days earlier still had their mind set on the NL West Division title -- now travel to Denver to face the Rockies in a tiebreaker playoff game Monday for the right to earn the Wild Card berth.

Game time is set for 4:37 p.m. PT, and the Padres' fate is back in their own hands.

And this much is certain: The Padres will be ready for their biggest test, and they'll be bringing their best -- leading Cy Young candidate Jake Peavy, who will face off against the Rockies' Josh Fogg.

"It's going to be fun ... we're starting the playoffs with Game 7," said Peavy, who will be going after his 20th win of the season in the extra game. "I'm excited about the opportunity. The season is still alive. You play 162 [games], and you still need one more to decide if you're going home or you're in."

And so the Padres will take their chances with Peavy and hope that their lineup, which actually outscored the Brewers in the four-game split, will give their ace enough support. In Milwaukee, Khalil Greene had a pair of homers and drove in six runs -- giving him eight homers and 23 RBIs for the month -- as the Padres went toe-to-toe with the National League's most powerful team. In Colorado, they'll want more of the same.

The Padres had two opportunities to win the Wild Card berth outright slip through their fingers in Milwaukee. On Saturday, they had a 3-2 lead over the Brewers in the bottom of the ninth inning, with two outs and two strikes before closer Trevor Hoffman allowed the tying run to score in a game the Padres dropped in 11 innings, 4-3.

On Sunday, pitcher Brett Tomko -- making his final 2007 appearance for the Padres, since he's not eligible for postseason play -- was staked to a 3-0 lead before he threw a single pitch, but he was gone by the fifth inning after allowing five runs.

And now, they'll rely on Peavy to try and deliver them to the National League Division Series. As Black likes to say, "I think that the best advantage you have is your starting pitcher."

Peavy has been a rock in the rotation for the Padres this year. He finished the regular season as the league leader in victories (19), ERA (2.36) and strikeouts (234), rendering the Cy Young race to be a one-man sprint.

There was some consideration, albeit brief, given to having Peavy pitch Sunday, though Black liked the way Tomko had thrown since being put into the rotation earlier this month. He also liked the idea of Peavy throwing in what amounts to an elimination game and on normal rest.

"We had this mapped out for a while, that it could come down to this," Black said. "If that was the case, we felt good with Jake the way he's been throwing on regular rest. Jake will be ready."

Peavy -- who is 0-0 in two starts against the Rockies with a 1.29 ERA in 2007 -- will go up against the hottest team in the Major Leagues. Colorado has won 13 of its last 14 games to pull back into a postseason picture it appeared out of two weeks ago.

Three of the Rockies' victories in that stretch came at PETCO Park against the Padres. Overall, Colorado owns a 10-8 mark over San Diego this season.

"I think their pitching is better [than it has been]," San Diego right fielder Brian Giles said of the Rockies. "I don't care where you play, if you get good pitching and defense, you're going to win. Obviously, you would like a different circumstance. Now we go to Colorado for one game."

Once the Rockies-Diamondbacks game ended Sunday, players lifted themselves off the plush couches in the visiting clubhouse and scurried off to the shower or to grab some dinner before the bus left the stadium for the airport.

Peavy dressed quickly and talked with reporters. If there was any trepidation on his part about playing Game 163, then he certainly wasn't showing it.

"I feel good," Peavy said. "Obviously, there's some excitement. I didn't want it to come down to this, but it has. We'll go to Colorado, get a good dinner and try and win another game for this team and push on to Philadelphia."

He certainly makes it sound simple.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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