Milwaukee– Ahead of the Colorado Rockies first National League Divisional Series game in nine years a familiar face whisked through Miller Park.
It’s the face of the man that powered the Colorado Rockies’ to their highest high 11 years ago only to be traded soon-there-after.
If the Rockies are to advance it’s no longer determined by a hero from long ago. But Holliday’s far from a side show, Holliday is an overlooked weapon and his contributions have gone largely chalked up to ceremony.
"“Well, for me, I think what should be stated first is his motivation was to help on the field, as was ours, for him,” Rockies manager Bud Black said on Thursday. “He didn’t want to come here just to be ceremonial, back comes an old Rockie. He wanted to contribute.”"
That he has. Since re-signing and coming up in late August, he has made 65 plate appearances to end the regular season he slashed .283/.415/.434 with a few RBI.
Most of his damage has come early in games against left-handed starters or late games as a pinch hitter and that’s what his role will be in Milwaukee.
As usual for the 38-year-old Oklahoman, he’s had stellar performances in both those departments in a limited sample size.
"“Even though he was not actively playing, he was down in Florida continuing to work out, staying in shape,” Black went on. “I think he was going to the batting cage. He was doing things in the hopes of playing this season, and I’m — it wouldn’t surprise me if Matt wants to make a run at it next year playing again.”"
He probably could given his performance.
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Though he doesn’t qualify because he’s only played in 25 games, his average exit velocity of 90.9 mph would rank third on the Rockies. And Holliday’s hard hit rate of a staggering 45 percent is best from the Denver Nine.
Yet it’s been more than just a small shot in the arm from a franchise figurehead.
"“I also instinctively knew that he would be able to help us in the clubhouse because of the presence, his character, his experience, and from what I’ve heard, as a teammate,” Black said. “And that was realized when he got here when I saw the interaction he had initially with our players… When I walk through the clubhouse or when I see Matt talking to somebody by the cage, when I saw Matt in the indoor cage talking with guys, or I take a walk back to the back of the airplane where players are and I see conversations, I know that positive things are being said, and maybe wisdom is being espoused to whoever he’s talking to.“And from what I’ve heard from other coaches, ex-teammates about him, that my level of trust and whatever was going on in these conversations was high, that there was always something good being said and adding that way.”"
Holliday has meant a lot on and off the field and he could mean a lot in this series.
The Brew Crew have one of the best lefties in baseball for late-game spots in Josh Hader. His 2.43 ERA and 0.811 WHIP have been sterling but his one hole is surrendering a touch of home runs to right-handed hitters. Eight of the nine dingers off him have come from righties.
Most will be focused on Arenado and Trevor Story vs Hader late in games given each have an OPS over a thousand against lefties but the match-up that might flip the series features the somewhat forgotten Holldiay who has certainly been there before.
"“His sort of looseness around the clubhouse, he’s not uptight,” Black said. “He’s been around this a long time. He’s been in pennant races. He’s been in playoff games. He’s won a World Series. All this experience is bound to rub off. Again, I wish I could state a specific conversation, but I’ve seen him. I’ve seen him talking, and I know good stuff has come out of those conversations.”"