Paul Sullivan: Cubs rebound from closer Adbert Alzolay's 4th blown save to salvage doubleheader split with Marlins

Paul Sullivan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Baseball

CHICAGO — It looked so simple from afar.

Craig Counsell would hand the ball to his closer in Milwaukee, and the Brewers would walk away with a win.

But the easiest decision Counsell had to make on a daily basis in his nine years in Milwaukee already has become one of the most difficult ones in his first month of managing the Chicago Cubs.

After Bryan De La Cruz’s two-run home run off Adbert Alzolay on a 2-0 pitch with one out in the ninth gave the Miami Marlins the lead in their 3-2 win in Game 1 of a doubleheader, Counsell had his first closer controversy in Chicago.

“We need Adbert to get outs, regardless of where it is,” Counsell said between games Saturday at Wrigley Field. “No matter where it is, we need Adbert to be an effective member of the bullpen, and I strongly believe he will be. We need outs. … It obviously stings when it comes at the end of the game there, but we need outs, and Abdert is going to get us big outs this year.”

The Cubs clubhouse was closed between games, and Alzolay was not made available to the media.


The Cubs rallied for four runs in the sixth inning in the nightcap for a 5-3 victory to earn the split, rebounding from the heartbreaking loss in the opener to improve to 13-8. Hector Neris came on in the ninth and gave up a one-out single to bring the tying run to the plate before retiring the final two batters for his first save as a Cub.

Shota Imanaga (3-0) earned the win in the nightcap, allowing three runs (two earned) and five hits while striking out five over six innings.

In Game 1, Alzolay suffered his fourth blown save in seven opportunities after he blew only three saves in 25 chances in 2023, his first year in the role. He also has served up four home runs in 10 innings after giving up five in 64 last year.

Counsell never had to worry much about ninth innings with the Brewers with All-Stars Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the bullpen. In 2020 and ‘21, Hader had three blown saves in 50 combined opportunities, a 94% conversion rate. Williams, who became Hader’s replacement in summer 2022 when the Brewers traded the left-hander to the San Diego Padres, converted 89% of his save opportunities (51 of 57) in ‘22 and ‘23.


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