DENVER -- Rockies manager Bud Black has been down this road before. It's the final weekend of the season. There is a postseason invitation waiting. And his team controls its postseason destiny.Black would like to see the similarity between the Padres team he was managing in 2007, and the Rockies
DENVER -- Rockies manager Bud Black has been down this road before. It's the final weekend of the season. There is a postseason invitation waiting. And his team controls its postseason destiny.
Black would like to see the similarity between the Padres team he was managing in 2007, and the Rockies team he is managing now end right there.
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"That was my first year managing," Black said.
It wasn't, however, his first season-ending disappointment.
And it wasn't the first time the Rockies provided the disappointment.
Black was a member of the 1993 Giants -- although he finished the season on the disabled list -- who won 10 of their final 12 regular-season games to finish with a 103-59 record, and wound up in second place when the Braves swept the expansion Rockies in a three-game series to finish the regular season.
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Now, Black is hoping the Rockies can help him enjoy the final moments of a season. He is looking to fill out the lineup card that sometime during a three-game visit by the Dodgers to Coors Field this weekend will provide the Rockies the opportunity for a chance to celebrate clinching their fourth postseason appearance in their 25-year existence.
"That was the vision the day I was hired [as Rockies manager last October]," Black said, "to advance to the postseason, and that is still the goal today."
The Rockies are close. After a day off in advance of the series with the Dodgers, Colorado went to bed Thursday night with a two-game lead on the Brewers, the last challenger standing after the Cardinals lost to the Cubs and were eliminated from contention. The Dodgers have already clinched the National League West and are focused on securing home-field advantage in the World Series and getting prepared for the Game 1 of the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile on Oct. 6 on TBS.
Black knows better than to take anything for granted. His career as a player, coach and manager has seen him be a part of a team that has come up short in postseason bids, but also teams that not only have advanced to the postseason, but won the World Series when he was a pitcher with the Royals in 1985 and a pitching coach with the Angels in 2002.
He also knows that once the game begins it is about the players.
"There is a difference in being a manager or a coach than being a player," Black said. "As a player on the field you are in control. As a pitching coach the playoff years in Anaheim [2004 and 2005] and the World Series  we would talk about all the scenarios. We would look at matchups we liked. But when the players went out on the field it is up to those guys. You work to have the right guy in the right position, and then you watch."
And If Black ever needed a reminder of just how quickly his impact from the bench becomes insignificant he can think back to those final days of the 2007 regular season.
The Rockies were on a late-season tear. They had won 11 in a row, but on the final Friday night of the regular season the Rockies suffered a 4-2 loss to the Diamondbacks, and fell two games back of the Padres, who won that night at Milwaukee.
One win in the final two games against the Brewers and the Padres would clinch the Wild Card. They wound up, instead, finishing the season losing three in a row -- the two to the Brewers and Game 163 to the Rockies.
"Twice we had Trevor [Hoffman] out there," Black said. "I don't know who you would have rather had with a chance to close out a game. Trev was as good as there was."
But not that weekend. Not on a Saturday in Milwaukee when Hoffman came on with a 3-2 lead to protect, had two out and a man on second, and an 0-2 pitch on Tony Gwynn, Jr., who as kid used to hang around the Padres clubhouse with his dad and Hoffman would throw him batting practice. Gwynn unloaded a game-tying triple, and the Brewers wound up with a 4-3, 11-inning victory.
"I can still see that pitch to Tony," Black said. "To be honest, it was a good pitch."
But a bad result.
On Sunday, the Rockies, who beat the D-backs 11-1 on Saturday, rallied for three runs in the eighth, capped off by Brad Hawpe's two-run double, for a 4-3 victory, while the Padres suffered an 11-6 loss to the Brewers, forcing a Game 163 on Monday night at Coors Field.
It wasn't easy, but the Padres did take an 8-6 lead into the top of the 13th and Black again turned to Hoffman. Hoffman, however, only managed one out in that inning -- a game-ending sacrifice fly by Jamey Carroll, which scored Matthew Holliday, who had tripled home Troy Tulowitzki with the game-tying run, on a play that to this day stirs up debate over whether Holliday ever touched home plate.
"Twice we had a lead and Trevor on the mound," Black said. "You feel good about that situation. Who'd you rather have out there?"
Twice, however, the Padres came up short.
It wasn't easy for a rookie manager at first. He relived the moments and decisions time and again.
And then he dealt with reality.
"Once a game starts, things don't always go to plan," Black said. "You prepare. You know what matchups you want."
You don't, however, always get the desired results.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com.