"We're going home tonight," a dejected Hoffman said. "Unfortunately, we're going home. You can't really point to any other factor than my performance tonight. It's a burden I'm going to have to deal with."
Hoffman stood tall in defeat, despite choking up with emotion as he tried to express his thoughts about what he acknowledged may be the biggest blown save of his career.
The game was an instant classic. It was the 163rd game of a 162-game season, filled with marquee performers including leading candidates for the Cy Young (Peavy), MVP (Matt Holliday), Rookie of the Year (Troy Tulowitzki) and the Hall of Fame (Hoffman). For the man who has accomplished more at the back of the bullpen than anybody to ever play the game, to have the opportunity to put the exclamation point on the end of a regular season that captivated all of baseball was storybook.
But for Hoffman, the story went horribly awry, and he acknowledged that it would be no easy task to put this one behind him.
"Being a part of that game in the way I was, and the way everybody participated the way they did, and to have it turn out the way it did -- it's hard to deal with," Hoffman said. "The finality of it all just comes roaring down pretty quick."
It was the second blown save in three days for Hoffman. He allowed a two-out double followed by an RBI triple Saturday in Milwaukee to let the Brewers back in the game they went on to win. If the Padres had finished either that game or Monday's with a win, they'd be on their way to Philadelphia.
"You're always trying to strive for consistency," Hoffman said. "You can't have a carryover effect in this role. I was prepared, I was ready to go. Unfortunately in these situations, where you're a strike away like a couple nights ago, and I barely got an out tonight -- it's very devastating."
Though the mood in the clubhouse was somber following a 15-minute team meeting, the Padres' confidence in Hoffman was unshaken.
"We don't want anyone but '51' taking the ball," Brian Giles said of Hoffman.
Manager Bud Black concurred, refusing to give any more weight to the rare shortcomings of his ace and his closer than to the entire team's collective inability to clinch the Wild Card, losing three of its final five games.
"It's baseball," said Black. "If it wasn't for those two guys, we wouldn't be in this position. It's one of those games where the other team beat us."
Even the other team tried to take the burden off Hoffman's shoulders. Having won 14 of their last 15 games to edge past San Diego for the Wild Card berth, the Rockies were as close to unstoppable as the game will allow.
"He didn't blow that save," said Todd Helton, who was intentionally walked in the 13th to set up Jamey Carroll's game-winning sacrifice fly. "The guys just came in and battled their butts off and got us to this point."
Hoffman had been up and down as the two teams held a 6-6 tie from the eighth through the 13th inning, trying to loosen up as his team threatened to break the tie. But he refused to accept that occupational hazard as an excuse.
"The game's about adjustments," Hoffman said of the break in routine. "Part of the routine is getting up if you go ahead. This was no different."
Nor was Coors Field a factor, in Hoffman's eyes, despite his 1-4 record and 6.03 ERA in the park, including 20 saves in 31 appearances.
"I'm a professional," he asserted. "It doesn't matter where you're at. You've got to be ready to go wherever you're at."
After taking the lead on Scott Hairston's two-run homer, the Padres saw the looming threat take shape when Kazuo Matsui led off the bottom of the frame with a double to left. Tulowitzki knocked him home with another double to left, and Holliday tied the game with a triple he bounced off the right-field wall.
"He's a great pitcher," said Holliday. "But he's human. He's going to make mistakes. You have to capitalize, because he doesn't make many of them."
The Rockies' hit parade took shape in a flash, leaving Hoffman with an unfamiliar sense of bewilderment at his inability to complete the task.
"It happened pretty quick," Hoffman said. "Everything felt real good out there. I just couldn't get the job done. My velocity was OK. It's October baseball, so it had a flat feel, but you have to be able to execute. I saw a lot of people in front of me execute their pitches."
Though his career accomplishments give him an aura of immortality, Hoffman never seemed more human than in his efforts to answer the questions waiting for the future Hall of Famer. While losing locker rooms are often littered with closers denying the lingering effect of blowing a game of this magnitude, Hoffman faced it head on, acknowledging the difficult offseason in front of him as he waits for another opportunity to take the ball and put this memory behind him.
"There are no clichés to use in this situation," Hoffman said. "It's not going to be easy to deal with, but people don't want to hear that. They want to see execution. They want to see the ballclub moving forward. That didn't happen tonight because of one glaring reason: that was me."