Rondon records 5 outs, underused 'pen delivers

Rondon records 5 outs, underused 'pen delivers

WASHINGTON -- So far this season, Cubs manager Joe Maddon has called upon Hector Rondon for one inning of work at the most. On Tuesday, he stretched the right-hander, asking him to get the final five outs, and Rondon delivered.

Rondon took over for Travis Wood in the eighth with a runner at first and one out and the Cubs holding a one-run lead over the Nationals. Rondon did give up a single to Ryan Zimmerman, who had been struggling, and Anthony Rendon followed with a game-tying sacrifice fly. But rookie Albert Almora Jr. delivered an RBI double in the ninth to give Rondon and the Cubs a 4-3 win.

Rendon's sacrifice fly

"I was ready," Rondon said of being asked to go more than one inning. "Zimmerman, I made a really good pitch to him. After that, I had to get the ground ball. I got deep in the count to Rendon, but I got a fly ball. I knew I was coming into the ninth and needed to get quick outs, and I did it."

Maddon felt comfortable calling upon his closer for some overtime work because Rondon hasn't had to do much this season while the Cubs rack up wins.

"He's had plenty of rest, so that's why I was able to do that," Maddon said.

Rondon and Almora weren't the only heroes. Pedro Strop escaped a huge jam in the seventh. The Nationals had runners at second and third and nobody out, but Strop struck out pinch-hitter Wilson Ramos on three pitches, then gave up a sacrifice fly to Ben Revere that made it 3-2 before striking out Jayson Werth on four pitches.

Revere's sacrifice fly

"Give Stroppy a lot of credit for that win tonight," Maddon said.

"I was going for that strikeout," Strop said of his at-bat with Ramos. "I needed it. Less than two outs with two guys in scoring position, I needed a strikeout big time there. I was looking for it. I executed the pitches the way I wanted."

What was his mindset?

"I was thinking, 'Keep it simple, as simple as possible,' and think about the situation I was in, and execute pitch by pitch," Strop said. "That's my mindset. It's been good so far."

The Cubs' bullpen has the fewest number of innings pitched in the National League because the starters have done so well. Tuesday was the 18th straight game in which a Chicago starter gave up three or fewer earned runs, and the rotation now has a collective 1.69 ERA during that stretch with an 11-4 record.

Rondon is more than willing to go more than one inning if needed, and he'll pitch whenever he's needed.

"I told them, if they want to put me in for three innings, I'm sure I can go," Rondon said. "I don't care what inning he puts me in."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.