DENVER • Greg Holland has a tee time on Monday, somewhere in the state of Ohio.
Minutes after the strangest thing happened — the Rockies fell to 59-1 when owning a lead in the ninth inning, the lone and lonely loss coming Sunday, 3-2 to the Phillies at Coors Field — he couldn’t remember where.
He knew it wasn’t Firestone. Firestone hosted the PGA Tour’s Bridgestone Invitational over the weekend, so the Robert Trent Jones track was unavailable. No matter. Holland hovers right around a 12 handicap, so he’s relatively confident in his game. He can hang with the sticks on the club — Mark Reynolds, Kyle Freeland and Tyler Chatwood, among others.
"The good thing about being a relief pitcher — probably the best thing — is I’m going golfing tomorrow, then the next day I have a chance to get out there and pitch another game,” Holland said at his locker late Sunday.
Holland and the Rockies snap-hooked one into No Man’s Land on Monday. They lost in a way they haven’t lost before, Holland (or anyone, for that matter) blowing a 2-1 lead in the final frame when Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp spanked a two-run double off the wall. Their run of 59 straight wins when leading after eight innings was the longest such streak to start a season in club history. They had been unbeatable in that scenario. Now they’re not.
“You file it away quick,” said Holland, who’s now 34 for 36 on save opportunities, a sensational number for any closer, especially one coming off Tommy John surgery, “Just because you have to.”
Now imagine if Sunday had been the National League Wild Card, a play-in game destined to pit the Rockies against the Diamondbacks for a spot in baseball's real postseason tournament.
And the Rockies had lost like that. Ouch. Wouldn’t that tickle?
Prepare yourself for heartbreak. Unlikely as it sounds, for all the good and promising things these young Rox have accomplished, it’s totally possible they reach the play-in game and lose in a manner that reminds of exactly 10 years ago — except this time Matt Holliday doesn’t touch home plate.
(Metaphorically speaking, of course, since Holliday plays for the Yankees and is 37, so he’s trucking the catcher before he slides around anyone.)
“That’s baseball,” as Bud Black said yet again.
The final destination for these Rockies probably depends as much on luck and chance as it does defense and pitching. Sunday, before a blessed crowd of 48,069 on “Faith Day” at Coors Field, they defended (Trevor Story gunned out two runners at home plate and made a jump throw, deep in the hole, that smacked of Tulo) and pitched (Jeff Hoffman found his curveball — it’s nasty — and allowed one run over seven innings). But their luck didn’t touch home.
"They (the Phillies) hit the ball in the right spots," Black said.
The blessing of a one-game playoff is the unbridled hope that it’s one step closer to the World Series. Anything is possible, even Rocktober. The curse is that it’s, well, one game, and guys like Rupp, who entered Sunday hitless in his previous 13 at-bats, can spank one off the wall to score the winning run.
For now, the Rockies’ mulligan comes in the form of the 50 games remaining on the schedule, which is nice. The next four series are against the Indians, Marlins, Braves and Brewers — an average bunch with a combined record that offers proof (221-220). The Rox are 5.5 games up in the Wild Card. Seems like a good time to create some separation and minimize the luck factor.
A few hours before Holland’s tiny son brought smiles to a bummed clubhouse by dishing out high-fives, the stat that jumped off the page was largely thanks to his proud papa: 59-0. Make that 59-1, a reminder that luck plays a bigger role in sports, especially baseball, than anyone really cares to admit.