ATLANTA — As Greg Holland’s sideways outings over the past month grew more frequent, evidence of his issues became more obvious. Colorado’s closer lost control of his best pitch. The Rockies’ next step is figuring out how to fix him.
“We’re in the ‘ah’ stage, but not that ‘ah-ha’ stage yet,” manager Bud Black said Sunday, less than 24 hours after pulling Holland from the ninth inning for the second time in a week but just the second time this season.
On Saturday night Holland gave up a two-run homer to the Braves’ Matt Adams that turned a 7-4 Rockies lead into a one-run headache. Black pulled Holland with one out. Left-hander Jake McGee mopped up the damage, forcing a game-ending double play as the Rockies won 7-6.
Black said he has not decided whether to avoid using Holland in high-leverage situations — against the meat of an opposing lineup or in one-run ninth innings. Black will instead “navigate” how to use Holland from here on out.
“Possibly. But maybe not,” Black said about the possibility of using a different closer. “His next outing might be a closing situation. I can’t answer that right now. We haven’t definitively made that decision.”
Baseball’s saves leader through July, Holland’s ERA spiked in August, expanding from 1.56 to 4.05. He has allowed 14 runs in his past eight outings.
His problem is a slider that has suddenly gone flat. Holland on Saturday worked 0-2 counts against Ozzie Albies and Adams. His third pitch to both batters was a slider. Both turned into hits, a single for Albies and a home run for Adams.
“Greg no doubt is going through a tough time,” Black said. “It’s primarily around the slider. The slider is not quite as crisp, it’s not breaking as sharply as his norm. We have to get to the bottom of the spin.”
The Rockies suspect there’s a problem with Holland’s grip on the pitch, among several theories. But while a struggling hitter can take 1,000 swings in a batting cage to work out an issue, a pitcher is stuck with fixing problems on the fly.
After pitching four games in five days, Holland was not available Sunday on a planned rest day.
“We have three or four guys, if we have a lead late in the game and I’m out in the field, I feel comfortable with,” second baseman DJ LeMahieu said. “Hollie is struggling a little bit. But knowing how competitive he is, there is no doubt he will come back strong.”