Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, offers opportunities for redemption. The goalie who allows a weak goal can't go and score an equalizer. The cornerback who gets burned for a touchdown has to watch from the sidelines and hope that his offense can get those points back.
In baseball, no matter what atrocity you might commit in the field, you get a chance - perhaps several - to reverse your team's fortune at the plate. Likewise, a game of offensive heroism can be ruined with one momentary lapse afield, in which you forget to plant your feet before you throw and allow Jorge Posada to reach base, thus costing your team's ace a complete game victory, right Aaron Hill? But I digress.
While baseball is quick to offer atonement, it is seldom realized. Bill Buckner could have wiped away all memory of Game 6 with a winning hit in Game 7. Alas, his career is reduced to a single replay. Not so for Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday.
With the Rockies up 6-5 in the eighth inning of the Wild Card tiebreaker, Holliday, who had been seranaded with chants of "MVP" throughout the game, played a Brian Giles fly ball into a game-tying double. The gaffe produced the last run of the game for 5 innings, until a 2-run homer in the top of the 13th put the Padres ahead 8-6, appearing to end the Rockies miracle charge to the post season and mar a brilliant season by Holliday.
Except that the Rockies still had three outs to go, and Holliday poised to bat 3rd in the bottom of the 13th. One can argue that he had, perhaps, the most remarkable at-bat in the history of baseball.
- He batted with his team trailing and 3 outs away from elimination
- His triple tied the game, and put the Rockies in a dominating position to win the game and a playoff spot, which of course, they did
- The hit clinched the National League Batting Title, after seeing his lead over Chipper Jones whittled to a point and a half
- The hit also won Holliday the league RBI title, chasing home his 137th run, one more than Ryan Howard.
- He did it against baseball's all-time saves leader.
I'm not sure that any other single hit has had such an impressive resume. It robbed Padres left fielder Scott Hairston of becoming the Rockies' own personal Bucky Dent. It will surely earn Holliday the National League MVP award. Had the Rockies lost, the lasting image of his season would likely have been the Giles misplay.
Of course, it seems that Holliday didn't actually touch the plate on the game-winning run, and he left a good chunk of his chin on the field in a slide of Stottlemyre-esque ugliness. Even redemption, when realized, isn't perfect. But Holliday and the Rockies will certainly take it.