Rosenthal battles for back-to-back saves

Cardinals closer enduring rocky June but holds off Cubs

Rosenthal battles for back-to-back saves

CHICAGO -- Each one had moments that could've been troublesome, but Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal still earned saves in back-to-back games against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

After getting out of a jam with some help from catcher Yadier Molina in the Cardinals' series-opening win Monday, Rosenthal wiggled out of another tough spot in the ninth inning of St. Louis' 4-3 win Tuesday, getting a strikeout and game-ending groundout after allowing a one-out single to Addison Russell.

Rosenthal, who's recorded 45 and 48 saves the past two seasons, said he isn't lacking confidence. Regardless, manager Mike Matheny thinks these two saves, on the road against a team like Chicago, can still help in that regard.

"I hope he sees it that way," Matheny said. "You never can tell if he's lacking confidence. You can only tell that by the kind of pitches he's making. I saw him aggressive [Tuesday]. I saw him use his breaking ball, his changeup. ... I saw him making nice pitches with the fastball. So, when I see his stuff aggressive, I think he's got confidence. I think today was a much better sign."

There was even a glimmer of Rosenthal's prime form when he struck out rookie catcher Willson Contreras for the first out of the ninth Tuesday.

"That first batter looked like Trevor," Matheny said. "I haven't seen that in a little while, and it's something to build off. He got into another little fix again, but he figured out how to pitch his way through it."

Rosenthal's biggest issue this month is location with his high-90s fastball. It's been a turbulent month of June and there's been speculation that his closer's role might soon be in jeopardy if things don't improve.

Prior to the save Monday, Rosenthal allowed two runs in his previous two appearances, which led to losses against the Rangers on Saturday and Astros on Wednesday. He gave up five combined hits in those games and got only one out.

On Monday, Matheny had left-hander Kevin Siegrist warming up before Rosenthal got the final out with runners at first and third to preserve the win. On Tuesday, Matt Bowman was getting loose in the bullpen before the final out.

"I'm always out there giving it my best," Rosenthal said. "I want to be the guy there. I always want to have the ball and finish it off, but at the same time, I've got to realize this is a team, and I trust our manager and I trust that they're going to put me in the best spot to help the team win. If we're getting wins, it doesn't matter if I pitch in the first inning or the ninth inning. That's what we're here for. We're here to win and be a part of that."

Rosenthal has blown two saves this season out of 15 opportunities. He had three blown saves all of last season, when he recorded 48 saves. This season started similarly, with Rosenthal posting eight saves and a 2.12 ERA through the first two months, including 28 strikeouts to just 13 walks in 17 innings.

The goal is to relocate his location with the fastball and let the rest of his pitches fall in line behind it.

"I've always pitched that way," he said. "Try to work off my fastball command and then get to my secondary stuff. Lately, just trying to find that fastball command is something I've been working on. Once that's there, it's a little bit easier to get to the secondary stuff." 

Brian Hedger is a contributor to MLB.com based in Chicago. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.