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Cubs’ bullpen flushes Friday, locks down big playoff win Saturday

ST. LOUIS – Maybe the Cardinals’ stadium staff shouldn’t have been so quick to fix the lock on that bathroom door in the Cubs’ bullpen.

The night after closer Hector Rondon got trapped in the bullpen bathroom for a half-inning late in the game, everything was in top working order for a Cubs’ bullpen that played a major role in getting the Cubs in even in the best-of-five Division Series as it heads to Wrigley for the next two games.

“I don’t think it was on purpose,” said Rondon, laughing after earning his first career postseason save with a scoreless ninth inning in Saturday’s 6-3 victory.

Friday night nothing worked for a bullpen that has been a hold-your-breath proposition most of the season – between the trapped closer and Pedro Strop’s ugly eighth inning in a continuing horror story at Busch Stadium.

Rondon said he was scared for a moment as he banged on the door, yelling for help, listening to teammates and security try unsuccessfully to force open the door from the outside.

Eventually Rondon freed himself – MacGyver-like – when he found a metal bar in the bathroom and jammed it into the latch to force the door open.

Saturday night?

“The key for our bullpen was we try to do simple,” he said. “Throw a strike and make a pitch.”

The Cardinals on paper have the clear edge in the battle of the bullpens, but that might have shifted after Travis Wood retired seven of eight, Trevor Cahill pitched a 1-2-3 eighth, and Rondon closed it out.

“Talent-wise we’re right there with anybody in the league,” right-hander Justin Grimm said. “The only difference between other teams [in the playoffs] and this team is they do have playoff experience. They have more experience than we do.

“We’re a lot younger crowd, but we all have a chip on our shoulder, and we’re ready to prove what we can do as well.”

Manager Joe Maddon downplayed the struggles of Strop in St. Louis, after the setup man allowed a second-pitch home run that quickly turned a 2-0 game into a 4-0 game in the eighth on Friday.

Rondon said he talked to Strop Saturday and said Strop is confident and “normal.”

“The bullpen’s going to be big,” Maddon said. “It’s going to be big on both sides of the fence. The bullpen normally decides a lot this time of the year.”

The Cubs’ pen is well rested despite the 4 1/3 innings of work Saturday, having not been needed in close to a week.

“But I anticipate the bullpen’s going to play a big role in us winning the series,” Maddon said.

Against anyone, Grimm said.

“I think we can hold our own with anybody, bullpen to bullpen,” he said.