Holland human after all
Rockies’ all-star closer won’t let this loss linger
In defeat, Greg Holland sat at his locker in the Rockies’ clubhouse Sunday, quietly and deliberately performing a pitcher’s manicure on the nails and fingers of his right hand. Then he stood up, faced the media and explained how it all went wrong.
“It’s part of the gig,” Holland said. He blew only his second save of the season and lost 3-2 to Philadelphia in front of nearly 100,000 eyes at Coors Field that looked on in disbelief when a party in LoDo abruptly died.
When Holland takes the mound, we assume it’s all over except the crying by the visitors, right? The Rockies were 59-0 this season when leading after eight innings … until Sunday, when the magic went poof on a cloudy summer afternoon.
Nobody’s automatic, not even Holland. This is baseball. Stuff happens.
So here’s a glimpse into the heart and head of a closer, one of the most unforgiving jobs in sports. What was fascinating is how Holland, the majorleague leader in saves with 34, dealt with the failure.
“I’m not pleased about it,” Holland said. “But I’ll get over it.”
He dissected how the Phillies beat him in the top of the ninth with the clinical detachment of a surgeon. Without any outward signs of frustration or anger, Holland spoke of letting Odubel Herrera off the hook on a two-strike count. He detailed how quelling Philly’s threat was one quality pitch for a double play away, before rolling in a weak offering Cameron Rupp crushed for a double that drove in the tying and goahead runs.
“It’s never easy when you lose. But I’ve given it up quite a bit in my career, so you’ve got to learn to deal with it,” said Holland, a self-deprecating reference to 18 blown saves during seven seasons in the majors.
“The good thing about being a relief pitcher, probably the best thing is I’m going golfing tomorrow, and the next day I’ve got a chance to go back out there and pitch another game. You file it away quick, just because you have to.”
Until the moment when Charlie Blackmon bounced into a groundout to end Colorado’s bid for a rally in the bottom of the ninth, there was a nearly constant buzz in the ballpark. The drama of a tight game brought organic noise that did not require a scoreboard exhortation to incite. It was cool. Very cool.
The noise was not only beautiful, but a harbinger of playoff tension.The Rockies are grinding through 162 regular-season games in the hope of playing one more time in October, when a single loss could send them home for the winter.
All season long, the Rockies have danced on a razor’s edge, winning 14 times by a single run. But even with Holland on the mound, nothing’s guaranteed. Now. Or in October.
So you’d better get used to that knot in your stomach. It’s standard issue for every fan whose emotions hang on every pitch.
“Know what that is?” said Bud Black, preaching one of his favorite messages about a game built to break even a strong man’s heart.
“That’s baseball,” I replied, surrounded by inkstained wretches like me in the postgame news conference.
“You’re learning,” Black said.