KANSAS CITY -- Rockies closer Greg Holland hopes Thursday's clean ninth inning in a 3-2 victory over the Royals helps him get back to pitching without cumbersome overthinking.Over his previous six games, Holland gave up 12 runs in five innings, blew three of his four save chances and coughed up
KANSAS CITY -- Rockies closer Greg Holland hopes Thursday's clean ninth inning in a 3-2 victory over the Royals helps him get back to pitching without cumbersome overthinking.
Over his previous six games, Holland gave up 12 runs in five innings, blew three of his four save chances and coughed up a homer with the game tied to lose another. On Wednesday night, he yielded a three-run Eric Hosmer homer with two out in the ninth for a deflating 6-4 loss.
Holland had converted 34 of his first 35 save chances. The slump has forced Holland to address mechanics and strategy. Such adjustments are necessary, but they can create overload come game time.
"Typically for me, when I do struggle with my command, I'll start thinking about my delivery on the mound and I've always been one to think that once you're on the mound, you're competing," Holland said. "When you start worrying about mechanical adjustments there's too much going through your head, because there's a big league hitter standing there trying to get on base."
Days like Thursday do wonders for mental clarity. Holland needed just seven pitches to coax an Alcides Escobar line drive to second baseman DJ LeMahieu and harmless fly balls from Chelsor Cuthbert and Mike Moustakas.
The victory, also made possible by Pat Valaika's two-run homer in the eighth and solid work from starter German Marquez for six innings and relievers Adam Ottavino and Mike Dunn for an inning apiece, was the Rockies' fifth in the last 16 games. While an usually potent offense that's struggled to capitalize on scoring chances has been the main reason, Holland's four losses during that stretch are the difference between having a decent National League Wild Card lead and being where they are -- still in the second Wild Card position, a half-game behind the D-backs.
However, if Holland can turn Thursday's deep, happy breath into a trend, the Rockies can improve their standing even if they are involved in tight, low-scoring games.
Holland located his slider and fastball well enough to engender less-than-desirable contact. The problem recently has been too many pitches like the one Wednesday to Hosmer -- a slider that was supposed to break over the outside of the plate but missed by a foot and a half, right in the path of a dangerous bat.
"I cleaned a few things up," Holland said. "Today, my ball was going toward my target."
Manager Bud Black left Kauffman Stadium Wednesday night planning to go to Holland on Thursday, as long as he felt good.
"You look at the track record of Greg Holland, who he is as a pitcher, what he's done in the ninth inning in his career and what he's done this year," Black said. "Granted, it's been a little rocky of late. We felt at that moment today, he was the guy to go to."
Holland isn't taking Black's faith for granted.
"It's nice knowing that," Holland said. "But you also gotta understand as a player you've got a job to do. You're expected to do it, and when you don't do it, there's consequences for those actions. That's part of it. Hopefully, it'll trend in the right direction and I'll pitch like I'm capable of pitching."
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**.