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Cubs’ rally falls short in 5-4 loss to Cardinals

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Updated: May 5, 2014 12:16AM

In picking up saves Friday and Saturday, Hector Rondon faced one batter over the minimum. He threw 20 pitches total, finishing off the Cardinals to give the Cubs some much-needed end-game stability.

So when Rondon gave up two runs in the ninth inning Sunday, taking the loss in a 5-4 defeat, manager Rick Renteria didn’t overreact.

“Every game,” he said, “is a test.”

The same can be said for Rondon’s teammates, but the Cubs’ nominal closer was a highlight in the team’s first series win since September.

“He needs to keep his head up, obviously,” Renteria said. “Games like this are going to happen also.

“He went out there, and he wanted the ball.”

Catcher Yadier Molina drove in two runs with a million-hop single with the bases loaded and two outs. On a 1-2 count, Rondon tried to throw a sinker inside, but it caught too much of the plate.

With the Cubs’ infield playing the slow-footed Molina near the edge of the dirt, the single had to find the perfect hole. It did, to the left of shortstop Starlin Castro and to the right of the second-base bag.

“More in my mind, I know I need to be more aggressive early in the count,” said Rondon, who entered with the game tied at 3. “Try to finish the hitter.”

Molina’s hit scored Randal Grichuk, who walked with one out, and Mark Ellis, who followed him with a single. Rondon struck out Peter Bourjos for the second out and walked Matt Carpenter before facing Molina.

“My arm feels good,” Rondon said. “I tried to make a good pitch.”

The Cubs added one in the bottom of the ninth when, with two outs, Emilio Bonifacio walked, took second on defensive indifference and scored on Luis Valbuena’s double.

Anthony Rizzo grounded out to first to end the game, the team’s third rally of the night falling just short.

“That’s the only way you’re gonna be able to win the close ballgames like this,” said Cubs starter Jason Hammel, who allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings.

“You have to have the confidence to be able to come back late in a game and squeeze out the one-run ballgames.”

The Cubs do: Before the game, Renteria seemed to agree with Rizzo’s earlier statement that he was “kinda sick” of being asked if the Cubs would like to one day mimic the Cardinals.

“I think that’s the beginning of maybe the type of edge or attitude that we need to have,” Renteria said.

In the second and third innings, Hammel retired the first two batters before issuing a walk.

In the second, Grichuk tripled in Jhonny Peralta, who had walked, and scored on Ellis’ double.

In the third, Matt Holliday walked and scored on Matt Adams’ double off the left-field ivy to go up 3-0.

“Just can’t do that — two-out walks,” Hammel said. “Two quick outs, put a guy on base, and bad things happen.”

Hammel pulled the Cubs within one in the fourth when he singled sharply to right field with runners on second and third and two outs.

The Cubs tied the game in the seventh when Valbuena tripled and scored on Carlos Martinez’s two-out wild pitch.

“We weren’t able to, but we still had some fight,” Hammel said. “We still had some pep.”

Rondon said the weekend was a good sign for the Cubs, who had won three in a row.

“OK, we lose the game,” Rondon said, “but we win the series.”


Twitter: @patrickfinley

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