BOSTON -- Lost in the hoopla of two well-pitched games by Chicago Cubs starters against the Boston Red Sox this week is the fact that the same pitcher was on the mound at the end of both games. Closer Hector Rondon saved Jake Arrieta’s 2-0 gem on Monday then came back 24 hours later to seal the deal on a one-run victory on Tuesday.
“For me it’s amazing,” Rondon said after the 2-1 win. “First time here. First two games, saves. It’s really good for me and my teammates.”
It’s no easy task to come into Fenway Park and nail down two close games. These are the World Champions playing in front of a sold-out crowd. They’re reeling in the standings and looking to right the ship. A sign of life came in the ninth with two outs when Brock Holt reached first on an infield single that third baseman Luis Valbuena couldn’t handle. The pressure built with all-everything player Dustin Pedroia at the plate and the tying run at first.
“I’m just trying to make a good pitch and see what happens,” Rondon said.
Four pitches later he induced Pedroia into a ground ball to Valbuena, who made a good play to nail him at first. Game over.
“He seemed composed,” manager Rick Renteria said of Rondon. “He didn’t get rattled. He just kept attacking the strike zone. Life on his fastball today seemed better than yesterday.”
That’s a good sign, as shutting down the opposition on back-to back nights is a prerequisite for a good closer. Rondon hasn’t been perfect, though he is pretty close with 11 saves in 13 opportunities this year. And when he blows them he hasn’t exactly been hammered by the opposition. According to ESPN Stats and Information, his hard hit ball percentage is 11.7 percent. The league average is 15.3 percent. There’s been a few broken bats and bloop hits that have hurt him.
“I don’t care about that,” blunt pitching coach Chris Bosio said. “Bloops are a result of getting the ball up in the zone. Keep it down. He did that tonight [Tuesday].”
Rondon has come a long way in a short amount of time and more often than not he’s gotten the job done in a notoriously shaky role for the Cubs in the past. Even he admits he’s not sure if he could have locked down these two wins a couple of months ago.
“I don’t think so,” he laughed.