After latest meltdown, who's next to close?

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
9:27
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Hector Rondon, come on down. You should be the next contestant on who’s going to close games in the ninth inning for the Chicago Cubs.

After a disastrous Wednesday meltdown, on the 100th anniversary of the first game at Wrigley Field, the Cubs might need new options.

They’ve already burned through Jose Veras, and now Pedro Strop is having issues. He can’t throw strikes, which lead to the blown save against the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 7-5 loss.

“You feel all that work your teammates put in to put you in that situation is on you,” Strop said after the game. “The first hitter, I really didn’t have my command.”

Strop walked Chris Owings on four pitches and the Diamondbacks took advantage of a weird inning, which included an error by shortstop Starlin Castro and a fall by right fielder Justin Ruggiano that led to a two-run triple.

“That one finished not like we would have wanted,” Cubs manager Rick Renteria said.

It’s become a theme of the season, just like last year. The Cubs’ bullpen has the hardest time finding those final three outs.

And this year it’s been pitcher Jeff Samardzija who’s been victimized as much as anyone. Through five starts, he has an ERA of 1.53, yet is winless. In fact, he became the first pitcher in 100 years -- there’s that number again -- to begin the season with five consecutive starts of seven innings or more pitched while giving up two runs or less without getting at least one victory, according to BaseballReference.com. He’s 0-2.

“I’m going out and doing my job,” Samardzija said. “You go out there and compete for the team and hope for the best.”

Leading 5-2 heading into the ninth inning, Samardzija had every reason to believe the best outcome would be possible. Entering play on Wednesday, teams in major league baseball were 158-0 this season when beginning the ninth inning or later with a three run or more lead, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Now it’s 158-1.

Strop has walked seven in 8 1/3 innings pitched, so he's had issues prior to Wednesday. Those numbers won’t get it done for a closer. Justin Grimm has walked a tightrope, as well, giving up nine hits and six walks in just 11 innings pitched; but he hasn’t been scored on much. He did give up the game-winning hit to Aaron Hill on Wednesday. Before that James Russell gave up the game-tying single to Miguel Montero.

The only reliever who’s been solid from the get-go is Rondon. He’s given up just one run this year and has the best WHIP (1.06) among all pitchers. And he already has a save to his credit.

“Rondon did a nice job, again,” Renteria said.

Once the Cubs and their fans calm down from the debacle that occurred on the 100th anniversary, they should realize this is all a learning experience. Who can handle those last three outs and is he even on the staff right now?

“When you get the first out, everything is different,” Strop said.

And when you don’t, it can all fall apart, as it did on Wednesday.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Starlin Castro
BA HR RBI R
.292 14 65 58
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Rizzo 31
RBIA. Rizzo 72
RA. Rizzo 83
OPSA. Rizzo .895
WJ. Arrieta 9
ERAT. Wood 4.86
SOJ. Arrieta 157