PITTSBURGH — In an ideal world, the Pittsburgh Pirates were surely hoping that they would have been able to defeat the Oakland A’s without needing a save to do so.
Closer David Bednar, who has been superb this season, was unavailable after closing out all three games against the St. Louis Cardinals over the weekend.
Alas, this is not a perfect world, and the Pirates required a save opportunity to defeat the Oakland A’s 5-4 at PNC Park on Monday night.
With Bednar out of commission for the night, manager Derek Shelton turned to right-hander Colin Holderman to close out the game. For Holderman, it was the first save opportunity of his big league career.
Holderman was able to strike out Carlos Pérez for the final out of the game and give the Pirates their sixth victory in a row.
“I’ve been waiting a while for it. It felt great. Even though I had to work a little harder than I would imagine – they put some good swings on the ball – and we got it done. I’m happy,” Holderman said.
It’s true. Holderman did have to work hard to close out the game.
The first batter he faced, speedster Esteury Ruiz, reached on a single to center field. However, Ruiz was quickly erased as catcher Austin Hedges threw out the A’s center fielder trying to swipe second base.
“That fired me up. You never want someone on base, especially as fast as Ruiz. And (Hedges) made a great throw. I just tried to be as quick as I can there while delivering a good pitch still… It really bailed me out,” said Holderman.
That wasn’t the only traffic Holderman had to deal with. Ryan Noda followed with a ground-rule double to right field. Brent Rooker then reached on an infield single to give the A’s runners on the corners with one away.
With the tying run only 90 feet away, Holderman induced a weak flyball off the bat of Aledmys Díaz before striking out Pérez to end it.
It’s not the first time this season that the reliever has dealt with runners on base. He knows what he needs to do in those situations.
“This year I’ve had a few times where I’ve had to get out of some sticky situations. So, I get as mad as I possibly can and try to get nasty and hope it works out. That’s all I really do is get mad.”
Holderman has had an excellent season out of the Pirates bullpen this season. In addition to earning his first save, Holderman owns a 2.74 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23 innings.
For now, Holderman will slide back into his role of setting up Bednar. But the Pirates have to feel good knowing they can count on Holderman if — and inevitably when — a similar situation arises.