Hol­land hu­man af­ter all

Rock­ies’ all-star closer won’t let this loss linger

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - MARK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

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.

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