Ottavino's brilliance highlights stellar 'pen effort

Ottavino's brilliance highlights stellar 'pen effort

MILWAUKEE -- Most Rockies fans could be forgiven for thinking righty reliever Adam Ottavino was on the edge of a mess. He pitched in a bullpen that was the Majors' worst last year, and after control struggles in Spring Training, he walked the first two Brewers he saw on Opening Day.

However, even at the worst of times, Ottavino felt on the edge of dominance. He was correct.

Holding a one-run lead in the eighth inning but facing runners at second and third with no outs, Ottavino simply struck out three straight Brewers in the Rockies' 7-5 victory at Miller Park on Monday.

"I don't give in," Ottavino said. "I always think I can get out of it. I've been in a lot of bad situations in my life out there. I knew I wasn't where I wanted to be those first two batters, but I knew I was close. Then I didn't want to let our team down."

It took just 11 pitches for Ottavino to walk Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton. With the score 6-5, the Brewers' Jett Bandy missed a bunt attempt, but the runners executed a double steal.

Interestingly, on the same pitch the runners reached scoring position, they were further from scoring than ever, because Ottavino found what was missing.

"That was the first good slider I threw the whole inning," Ottavino said. "Then I figured out my slot at that moment, and I decided to be more aggressive at that moment. Once I figured out my timing, I just let it go. It went good from that point on."

Scott Oberg replaced struggling starter Jon Gray -- who was charged with five runs in the fifth -- and minimized the damage, allowing just one inherited runner to score, Mike Dunn struck out two and benefited from catcher Tony Wolters' throw to stop a steal attempt, which erased a walk. Carlos Estevez had a perfect seventh that featured a Charlie Blackmon catch at the wall.

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In the ninth, new closer Greg Holland earned his first Rockies save in his first game since Sept. 18, 2015 -- when was playing for the Royals and suffered an elbow injury.

At no point did manager Bud Black consider conferring with Ottavino or removing him.

"It's a different game, your first game of the season, and he just couldn't get on track the first two hitters, then he responded with velocity on the fastball, the great breaking ball that is so tough on right-handed hitters," Black said.

The three strikeouts came on 13 pitches. Ottavino froze Bandy for the first strikeout, and Orlando Arcia flailed at a wide slider. Hernan Perez knocked an 0-2 pitch to right, but about two feet foul, then swung through another slider.

"Two batters before, the slider wasn't that good," Perez said. "But he threw me some nasty pitches. I should have hit the first slider down the middle."

By then, however, it was too late. Ottavino had his regular-season feel.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb, listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.