Rockies Ruin Giants' Moment of Elation

From Associated Press

When Dusty Baker heard the result from Houston, he was elated. Less than a minute later, he was deflated.

Baker's San Francisco Giants blew a seven-run lead and lost to the Colorado Rockies, 9-8, Sunday, sending them to Chicago for a wild-card tiebreaker game against the Cubs tonight (5:07 p.m., ESPN).

"There was a 30-second swing between them losing and us losing," Baker said. "We are happy going to Chicago. We could be going home to paint the garage."

Had the Giants held on to their lead, they would have headed to Atlanta as the National League's wild-card representative in the playoffs. But light-hitting Neifi Perez hit a leadoff homer off Robb Nen in the ninth, leaving the Giants and Cubs (89-73) tied for the wild-card lead after 162 games.

About a minute earlier, the Cubs lost, 4-3, at Houston in the 11th inning, meaning a Giant victory would have clinched the wild card.

Baker heard that result from fans listening to radios in the stands behind the dugout and from players who were watching the Cub-Astro game on television in the clubhouse. Almost immediately, Perez burst the balloon.

"I told you guys [Saturday] about my dream of a one-game playoff," Baker said. "I knew it would be Chicago. I wish my dream hadn't come true. I can't remember how the dream turned out."

The Giants, who had their six-game winning streak snapped, will have their "hottest pitcher going, Mark Gardner," Baker said. "We set our rotation for this in case there was a one-game playoff," Baker said. "They will have one of their best in [Steve] Trachsel going."

In the Giant locker room, outfielder Joe Carter called the developments "an emotional high that turned into an emotional low."

The Giants, who trailed the Cubs by five games with 10 days left in the season but closed with nine wins in 10 games, led the Rockies, 7-6, in the seventh before Vinny Castilla hit a two-run homer off Julian Tavarez. The Giants came right back in the eighth and tied it on Jeff Kent's solo homer off Pedro Astacio. Perez then hit his ninth homer, connecting on an 0-1 pitch from Nen (7-7).

One year after hitting .366 en route to the NL MVP award, Colorado's Larry Walker went two for four and won his first batting title with a .363 average, nine points ahead of the New York Mets' John Olerud.

"Our guys refused to lose," Colorado Manager Don Baylor said. "We were not going to let the other team celebrate on our field. The unexpected guy ends up winning the ballgame. I just told him not to try to hit the ball out of the park, just get a base hit, get on for Walker. He didn't listen to me, as usual."

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