Holland putting struggles, success behind him

Rockies closer focusing solely on Wednesday's NL Wild Card Game

Holland putting struggles, success behind him

PHOENIX -- Rockies closer Greg Holland handled the wild ride of the final two months of the regular season calmly.

Holland slumped from Aug. 6-28, when he blew three of his five save chances, walked six, gave up four home runs and posted a 17.18 ERA in nine games covering 7 1/3 innings.

However, Holland was stellar in nine games from Sept. 3-24 -- 5-for-5 on save opportunities, a 1.00 ERA over nine innings and a .065 batting average against.

But as Holland prepares for tonight's National League Wild Card Game against the D-backs at Chase Field, it's all forgotten.

"I don't try to think about struggles too much," Holland said. "I don't try to think about success too much. If you're putting in the preparation and the time before the game, it'll take care of itself. It takes all the doubt out of it. You can be confident.

"I've struggled and I've succeeded."

Holland has been part of a World Series-champion team. He earned 32 saves for the Royals in 2015, although he had to miss the postseason because of Tommy John surgery. The only other Rockies player to have won a World Series title is left-handed reliever Mike Dunn, who made four appearances for the 2009 Yankees.

Date Time Highlights
Oct. 4 D-backs 11, Rockies 8 WATCH

Holland's calm suits him well for potentially stressful situations in the postseason. After sitting out last season to recover, Holland signed a one-year contract with the Rockies and met incentives to receive a player option. A win tonight means he doesn't have to think about that quite yet.

Not that it's on his mind.

"This is fun," Holland said. "This is what we play the game for -- you're trying to help everyone else in the clubhouse get there, too. You see the work that guys like Ian Desmond and Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story and all these guys put in each and every day. You want to see the happiness and excitement on their faces."

The return of Holland's best slider has given the Rockies and their fans reason to smile.

During his Aug. 6-28 struggle, Holland couldn't put hitters away with his best pitch. With two strikes, he went to the slider 18 times. He managed just four swing-and-misses, and hitters were 5-for-12.

But when he was hot from Sept. 3-25, hitters whiffed on six of his 13 two-strike sliders, he earned three called third strikes and hitters were 0-for-15.

Holland K's Sanchez, the side

Interestingly, according to Statcast™, the average spin rate on Holland's slider was virtually the same whether he struggled or thrived.

Holland, 31, said often what happens with the put-away pitch is colored by the rest of the at-bat, when he's at times throwing the slider in the zone, and also using his fastball and an occasional curve.

"If you're in a long at-bat, where you're hitting a lot of foul balls, good hitters start picking up pitches better," Holland said. "You hear it mostly with starting pitchers. Say if a guy has a good curveball, if he's not throwing it for strikes, he's not going to get a lot of chases with it.

"If you can get your secondary pitches in the strike zone, then it's a completely different atmosphere."

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