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Protecting leads a source of pride for Rox 'pen

April 29, 2017

PHOENIX -- Give the Rockies' relievers a lead and their confidence borders on unshakeable, even at times -- such as Friday's seventh inning -- when the team's fans might quiver a little.After lefty starter Kyle Freeland threw six one-run innings, lefty reliever Chris Rusin fanned his two hitters. Adam Ottavino

PHOENIX -- Give the Rockies' relievers a lead and their confidence borders on unshakeable, even at times -- such as Friday's seventh inning -- when the team's fans might quiver a little.
After lefty starter Kyle Freeland threw six one-run innings, lefty reliever Chris Rusin fanned his two hitters. Adam Ottavino then walked A.J. Pollock and allowed him to advance to second on a wild pickoff throw, but Ottavino then shut down the D-backs for 1 1/3 innings, and Greg Holland pitched a no-stress ninth to go 10-for-10 on save chances and give the Rockies a 3-1 victory over the D-backs.
If it weren't for Ottavino's occasional scares -- he has walked five in 10 1/3 innings, but he has a 1.69 ERA -- the Rockies would border on dull in their efficiency. But a 1.42 bullpen ERA when pitching with the score tied or a lead is the kind of dull that has fans cheering.

"My confidence is high," said Ottavino, who induced a Chris Owings grounder to end the seventh and struck out one during a clean eighth. "I've just been inconsistent right out of the gate in some of the outings, figuring out where to start my pitches. But my confidence is always there, so I feel like I'm always a pitch away."
The bullpen endured some rough innings against the Nationals, such as the 11-run seventh in Thursday's 16-5 loss at Coors Field. But that happens when the Rockies are behind.
In that loss, manager Bud Black stayed away from using Rusin -- who handled Friday's lefty-on-lefty at-bats in the seventh with Mike Dunn out until next week's series at San Diego because of a back issue -- Ottavino and Holland. All were ready when needed on Friday.
Signing Holland, a standout closer with the Royals for several seasons, and Dunn helped settle a bullpen that had a Majors-worst 5.13 ERA last season. Ottavino, forced into late-season closer duty while trying to regain his form after 2015 Tommy John surgery, felt some of that pain.
"We feel good about what we're doing," Ottavino said. "I know, personally, I take it to heart to have this bullpen be an asset for our team."

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**.