By Mark Haas
DENVER (CBS4) – For years, no Colorado Rockies lead has really ever been safe.
“We have gone through some tough games here,” said Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado. “Where (blown leads) affect the next day and they affect the season.”
In 2016, the Rockies bullpen had the worst ERA in baseball and their 28 blown saves cost the team any chance of staying in contention.
However, so far in 2017, the Rockies relievers are the talk of the town.
“It has been the story so far and I like it and I know everyone likes it,” said Rockies right fielder Carlos Gonzalez. “The (bullpen) guys are giving us a chance to win games and that is why we are in first place right now.”
This year’s bullpen is anchored by two new, no-nonsense veterans: Mike Dunn and Greg Holland.
“The mindset is go out, do your job, get outs and put up zeros on the scoreboard,” said Dunn, who through Sunday has given up just 1 run in 7.2 innings.
Meanwhile, new closer Greg Holland leads MLB with 9 saves in nine opportunities.
“If we have a lead when the phone rings, we all anticipate keeping that lead,” said Holland. “We take pride in that.”
Through three weeks, Holland has shown the form that made him a two time All-Star with the Royals, and in the Rockies clubhouse, Holland says he sees similarities to his Kansas City team that won it all two years ago.
“There is obviously a lot of power in this lineup, more so than even in Kansas City,” said Holland. “And a defense that saves runs behind the pitchers, so all the pieces are there to be successful.”
Including a bullpen of relievers, ready and willing to back each other up.
“Everyone down there, all eight of us, just trying to make each other better,” said Dunn. “Have better outings each time we are out there and you kind of want to pitch better than the last guy pitched.”
New Rockies manager Bud Black agrees that the relievers have been feeding off each other’s success.
“I do believe in momentum and I do believe in contagiousness when it comes to performance,” said Black. “I also believe that players want to hold up their end of the bargain, no one wants to be a weak link.”
And if the Rockies weakest link truly has been fixed, 2017 could have a much different ending.
“When they (the relievers) go in the game with a 1-run lead, we feel like we are going to win every time,” said Arenado. “I honestly can’t say I have felt like that the last couple of years I have been here.”
“I want the team to do well and I will do whatever I can to help the team,” said Dunn. “I want to be the last team standing at the end of the year. That’s the ultimate goal.”