ST. LOUIS – The last time the Cubs’ closer had a save opportunity, Ted Cruz and the Golden State Warriors still believed they could win.
It had been so long that the San Francisco Giants won eight straight games – then lost one and won another four – since then.
“How weird is that?” said Hector Rondon, whose inning of high-leverage work in Wednesday’s ninth inning was his first save opportunity in 15 days.
“It took me a little time to get that feeling back on the mound,” said Rondon, who gave up singles to the first two batters in a one-run game — then struck out Yadi Molina and red-hot Randal Grichuk, before scrambling to gather a ball hit back to the mound and throw out Jedd Gyorko to end the 9-8 victory.
“But everything turned out good,” said Rondon, who’s 8-for-8 on save chances in his limited work this season with a 1.17 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings, with just two walks.
But despite playing for the team with the most wins in baseball, blowout wins and a recent spate of close losses conspired to leave Rondon sitting while 25 other pitchers in baseball racked up more save chances. Twelve entered the day with at least twice as many chances.
“Bizarre,” manager Joe Maddon said. “I just know it’s going to help us at the end of the season. So enjoy it while we can. He’s going to get work, and were going to be looking for days off for him in the future.”
For now, Rondon stays sharp with regular bullpen sessions. His save Wednesday was his first appearance in a week.
“The most important thing for us is that we win that day,” said Rondon, who laughed at his unexpected down time. “I know I don’t pitch that much, but now we’re going home and we have tough series over there against good teams. I think now I’ll have more chance to pitch at home.
“Maybe. Who knows?”
The Cubs scored at least eight runs in three of their last six games – and they did it with little production from slumping All-Star Anthony Rizzo.
Rizzo finished the nine-game road trip just 3-for-35 (.086), with one RBI – 3-for-38 in his last 10 games.
“He’s probably trying to do too much, no question,” Maddon said. “Regardless of how much you ask him not to, he’s still going to do that that. That’s just the nature of guys like him.
“But he’s going to come out on the other side with a vengeance, there’s no doubt in my mind. Believe me, he’s going to put up huge numbers by the end of the season.”
Notes: Ben Zobrist’s ninth multi-hit game in the last three weeks extended to 12 his hitting streak. He has reached base by hit or walk in 31 straight starts. … Matt Holliday’s three-run shot in the sixth was the fourth homer allowed by reliever Adam Warren. All of his earned this season have come on homers – after allowing just two in 26 relief appearances for the Yankees last year.