MILWAUKEE — Francisco Rodriguez looked, in his last handful of recent appearances, like he was on his way back to resembling the reliever that tallied the most saves ever in a single season. Or, at least, a reliever that could handle setup duties for a team 17 games out of their divisional race.
His command, which had gone awry in more than a few outings this season, seemed to be coming back, bit by bit. He had tallied eight — not just scoreless — but hitless innings in all of his last eight appearances in a setup role.
But after Brewers manager Ron Roenicke chose to trot out Rodriguez in a save situation in the bottom of the ninth on Thursday and Rodriguez watched an Alfonso Soriano base hit knock in the winning run for the Cubs, it was all too clear that Francisco Rodriguez just wasn’t meant to save games for the Milwaukee Brewers this season.
Even Roenicke couldn’t explain what happened to Rodriguez in the ninth inning, as he managed to register just one out before the Cubs made their triumphant walk-off comeback — capping a game that saw the Brewers lead by six runs at one point, only to lose it at the end.
“I don’t know,” Roenicke said, frustrated. “It’s just his command. Really the command with all of our pitchers today (was a problem).”
After striking out the first batter of the bottom of the ninth, Rodriguez allowed a double to David DeJesus and, in line with the damaging innings he’s been a part of this season, walked the next batter — the 11th walk of the game for Brewers pitchers.
From there, Starlin Castro singled. Anthony Rizzo doubled. And Soriano”s single ended the game. Just as quickly as the Brewers had taken and retaken the lead, the Cubs had swiped it away in walk-off fashion.
And for Rodriguez, the latest blown save—the 30th loss taken by a Brewers reliever this season—was just a regression back to what had already been a nightmarish season.
In 63 games this season, Rodriguez has the second-worst ERA on the team (5.21)—the highest of his career — trailing only Livan Hernandez, who gave up five earned runs in 1.1 innings on Thursday. Rodriguez’s walk per nine innings ratio is also the highest of his career, inching above 4.5. That’s 0.5 walks per inning.
It’s been a long season for Rodriguez and the rest of the Brewers bullpen, which gave up a total of nine runs in relief of Shaun Marcum on Thursday. But for Rodriguez—whose closer pedigree creates significantly higher expectations — it’s certainly seemed much more frustrating than most.