Well-rested Rosenthal enjoying rebound

Well-rested Rosenthal enjoying rebound

ST. LOUIS -- The nightmarish weekend that closer Trevor Rosenthal endured in Pittsburgh last month was out of his mind, he said, when he took the mound on Tuesday to face the Pirates for the first time since that series.

But whether he categorized it as such or not, Rosenthal did enjoy a bit of redemption with Tuesday's performance, striking out the side to notch his 34th save and seal the team's 4-3 win. He followed that up with a second 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday to close a 4-2 win that dropped the Pirates seven games behind the division-leading Cardinals.

Both performances were a far cry from those he had in Pittsburgh just before the All-Star break.

Then, Rosenthal could not keep two extra-inning leads, allowing four runs on eight hits over two combined innings. Going into that weekend, he had given up just three runs (including one to Pittsburgh in a May meeting) in 31 appearances. He was also fighting fatigue from heavy usage.

"He knew he was pitching on fumes when we were finishing up right there before the break," manager Mike Matheny said. "We were asking him to pitch when he didn't have his best stuff, for sure. He's a little better rested right now, and I think he went out there with a lot of confidence [on Tuesday]."

The Cardinals have been especially intentional about finding rest for Rosenthal since the All-Star break, and improved results have followed. In 10 games he's 9-for-9 in save opportunities and has allowed two runs, nine hits and three walks over 11 1/3 innings. He has 15 strikeouts during that stretch. These last two appearances marked just the second set of consecutive outings he has made since that July series in Pittsburgh.

"The rest definitely always helps," said Rosenthal, whose only two blown saves this season have come against Pittsburgh. "I felt like when I pitched the last time in Pittsburgh that I had good enough stuff to get the job done. Obviously, I was more rested [on Tuesday], but it all comes down to executing pitches. I was capable of doing that then, and I did it last night."

Wednesday's save was Rosenthal's 35th of the season, tying him with Pittsburgh's Mark Melancon for tops in the National League. Rosenthal also tied teammates Carlos Villanueva and Kevin Siegrist for second in the NL in reliever ERA (1.51).

Rosenthal is on pace for 50 saves, which would be three more than the franchise record set by Lee Smith in 1991 and matched by Jason Isringhausen in 2004.

"Trevor has been a very consistent guy for us and has had a terrific year," Matheny said. "He's the kind of pitcher that when he's healthy, when he's rested and when he's right, he's going to do well against anybody. It was nice to see him have some success [on Tuesday] and come out with a little different style of pitching -- showing some extra pitches, showing some different stuff. I think that will help set him up to use a couple other pitches next time he sees them as well."

Matt Belisle (inflammation in right elbow) said his arm has responded well a day after playing catch for the first time in several weeks. Belisle was scheduled to take Wednesday off and throw again on Thursday.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB, like her Facebook page Jenifer Langosch for Cardinals.com and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.