Colorado Rockies closer Greg Holland is one of the few players on the roster with postseason experience and the only player on any current roster to have recorded seven saves in one World Series. He knows the trials that every baseball season brings and carries with him the perspective of understanding that struggles are all a part of the beautiful tapestry of baseball.
"We realize how good we can be when we play well and we’re very confident," Holland told us heading into the Rockies final regular-season series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. "We went through some bumps, but that’s part of what makes it so enjoyable when you get to the finish line and you’re a playoff team. I say it makes the champagne taste that much sweeter, you know? The adversity is part of the game, and that’s what makes the winning aspect so rewarding."
Though there are but three games left, Holland knows as well as anyone that there is a big difference between winning and finishing. "You get to the point where you learn how to do the small things as a young team... sometimes you’ve gotta manufacture two or three runs depending on the pitching. That’s kind of what makes the characteristics of a good team. When you’re not pitching well, your defense picks you up and you’re hitting, and when you’re not hitting your defense and pitching picks you up. So it takes that kind of three-headed monster to get to the postseason. I think we understand that and we’ve got the right tools in place on the defensive side of the baseball and our lineup is really strong and I think our pitching has been pretty good."
This time of year, pressure rises and so do heart rates. While plenty of young players have risen to the occasion, there is no age limit -- in either direction -- on being prone to having the nerves get the best of you.
"It’s something where the more you do it, the better you get at it, and I’m still trying to get better at it," Holland admits. "But you want that nervous energy, you want that adrenaline, it’s what makes the game fun. If you don’t and you’re out there in the middle of a playoff race, then what’s the fun in that? You gotta use that adrenaline to your advantage because this game is fun. When we were all young, we would pretend it’s bottom of the 9th inning in the World Series and we’d hit a home run. That’s the part of it, we have to embrace that and have fun with it. I’ve really enjoyed this and moving forward after these games, it’s gonna be a lot of fun for us."
This is a team, he says, that has played well with their back's against the wall all season, bouncing back from a number of tough and frustrating losses.
"I think that’s the mark of all good teams," he continued. "Shortening those windows when you struggle because you’re not always going to play great baseball. The Dodgers have 100 wins and there was a stretch where they didn’t play very good baseball. That’s why you play 162 games instead of 50. This is a weird game where you have to let the cream kind of rise over the course of a long season. And we understand that these guys come to yard refreshed every day no matter what happened the day before. We don’t ride too high on the highs or too low on the lows and I think that that level-headedness is going to bode well for us."
But this time of year is a different animal. Fall baseball that matters is something most of this young team has yet to experience and even cagey veterans like Holland can't pretend like the pressure doesn't exist.
"I think it’s something that is hard to not think about," he says. "As a player, when you walk across those lines, you still have a job to do. Like I said, you don’t always want to have a man on second with one out late in the game, but when those things do arise, you have to embrace that challenge and enjoy the battle aspects of it. At the end of the day, we know that we could be in the playoffs, but we still understand that we have to play good baseball and finish strong. I think it’s not really pressure, it’s just part of the game and you’ve got to enjoy that."