Hector Rondon saw this coming and understood why the Cubs would target Aroldis Chapman, not letting the trade rumors dent his confidence, even if it would mean losing his job in the ninth inning.
Rondon had a big smile on his face when reporters swarmed his locker inside U.S. Cellular Field’s visiting clubhouse on Monday afternoon, wanting to get his immediate reaction after the Cubs finalized a blockbuster trade with the New York Yankees.
“Everything’s about the team,” Rondon said before a 5-4 walk-off loss to the White Sox. “I know the front office did a really good job to get Chapman. I think if you do have a chance to get that guy, you better take it."
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein felt exactly the same way, weighing Chapman’s all-world talent and character concerns and giving up the organization’s best prospect (Class-A shortstop Gleyber Torres), a major-league-caliber pitcher (Adam Warren) and two minor-league outfielders (Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford) for a better chance to win the World Series this year.
“Hector’s done a phenomenal job for us and will continue to do so,” Epstein said. “The one thing I wanted to communicate to Hector was that at no point did we say we were worried about Hector Rondon (or) we need to go out and get a new closer.
“Instead, the question we asked ourselves was: How can we get even better so that we can put ourselves in a position to get to the playoffs and try to win three postseason series?
“We feel like this trade made us better because of the importance of having three or four shutdown relievers in the postseason.”
Success stories during the rebuilding years like Rondon – who gradually developed from a Rule 5 pick into a strong closer – allowed the Cubs to confidently make a game-changing trade like this. Rondon converted 18 of 22 save chances before Chapman’s arrival, posting a 1.95 ERA with 48 strikeouts and only five walks in 37 innings.
“I know I did a really good job with my role,” Rondon said. “I don’t care if we’re in the eighth or seventh (inning) – what only matters to me is to come into the game and do my job. It’s only about the win.”
One day after being handed a five-game suspension, White Sox ace Chris Sale spoke exclusively to MLB.com's Scott Merkin about the incident that led to the suspension, his desire to win with the White Sox and his future with the team.
Below are Sale's quotes from Merkin's story, which can be found here:
-- "I want to win a championship in Chicago. That's been my goal from Day 1. It has never changed. I only get more passionate about it because I know that it's not easy winning a championship. There's a lot that goes into it.
"Our main focus should be winning. I know that every single player comes in ready to win every day. I can't speak on anybody else. ... I don't think I would be traded. I don't know for sure. I don't know what they are thinking now or what's going on."
-- "Nothing else matters really. People don't talk about the guys who get paid the most. They talk about the guys with the rings and teams that won the rings. Our guys in this clubhouse deserve, in every single game, the best opportunity to go achieve that goal of winning a championship. That's why we are all here. Nothing else matters."
-- "When I saw that there was something in the way of that 100 percent winning mentality, I had an issue," Sale said. "I tried to bring it up and say, 'Hey listen, these are my thoughts and concerns,' and they got pushed away because of the business deal that was set in place. I'll never understand why we need to do something on the business side on the field that might impede us winning a game.
"[The '76 uniforms] are uncomfortable and unorthodox. I didn't want to go out there and not be at the top of my game in every aspect that I need to be in. Not only that, but I didn't want anything to alter my mechanics. ... There's a lot of different things that went into it. Looking bad had absolutely zero to do with it. Nothing."
-- "I get you have to have the business side, and if you want us to take pictures with these things, whatever. If it's going to affect the style of play or the outcome of the game, I just thought that would be a no-brainer."
And below is a list of CSN's coverage of the Sale incident:
The White Sox found yet another way to survive on Monday night.
Shortly after a second straight blown save, Tyler Saladino singled with one out in the ninth inning to lift the White Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Cubs in front of 39,510 at U.S. Cellular Field. Saladino’s heroics sent the White Sox to their third straight walk-off victory and second in a row when the bullpen blew a ninth-inning lead. The White Sox improved to 49-50.
With Nate Jones and David Robertson unavailable and the group only two days removed from a start-by-committee after Chris Sale was scratched, Matt Albers and Dan Jennings allowed two runs and five hits during a ninth-inning rally.
Jones had pitched five times in six days. Robertson threw three times in a span of 18 hours between Saturday and Sunday. So even though he’d already made 12 pitches and pitched three of the previous four games, Albers returned to the mound in the ninth to preserve a two-run lead. The Cubs took advantage as Javy Baez, who earlier homered, doubled, stole third and scored on Dexter Fowler’s RBI single. Fowler went to third as Kris Bryant singled and was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Jennings took over and got ahead of Anthony Rizzo, but he singled past a drawn-in infield to tie the score. The left-hander gave up another single but struck out Jason Heyward to strand the winning run at second.
That proved critical as J.B. Shuck led off the ninth inning with a single off Mike Montgomery and moved up on a Dioner Navarro sac bunt. Saladino then singled on 0-2 pitch and Matt Szczur couldn’t handle the ball, allowing Shuck to score the winning run.
Aided by his defense early, Miguel Gonzalez managed to pitch out of several jams throughout the night to keep the Cubs wrapped up. It was yet another strong outing from the right-hander who was signed as a minor-league free agent on the eve of the season after he was waived by the Baltimore Orioles.
Melky Cabrera made a spectacular catch to rob Kris Bryant of a homer in the first inning and he and Tyler Saladino combined to throw out Javy Baez at home plate to end the third.
But Gonzalez did much of the rest on his own, including twice retiring Addison Russell with men in scoring position. Russell batted with two on in the fourth inning after a walk and a Frazier error and grounded out to second. Two innings later, Gonzalez struck out Russell after Jason Heyward doubled Willson Contreras over to third with two outs.
Even though he surrendered a two-run homer to Baez in the seventh, Gonzalez bounced back for two critical outs as he retired Dexter Fowler and Bryant. The strikeout of Bryant matched a season-high for Gonzalez, who also fanned eight on May 21 against Kansas City.
Gonzalez allowed two earned runs and seven hits in 6 2/3 innings with two walks. He threw strikes on 66 of 104 pitches and lowered his July ERA to 3.03 in 32 2/3 innings.
The White Sox offense struck first against Jake Arrieta. Saladino provided the team its first hit with a one-out double to left. Adam Eaton took immediate advantage as he singled off Arrieta to give the White Sox a 1-0 lead.
Arrieta settled in from there and retired nine of the next 10 batters into the sixth inning. But Tim Anderson changed it all with a 10-pitch strikeout to start the sixth inning as the White Sox made Arrieta go to work. Cabrera drew a six-pitch walk with one out and Jose Abreu singled on the 21st pitch of the inning. Arrieta struck out Justin Morneau but Frazier didn’t let him off the hook as he ripped his 29th pitch, a slider, for a three-run homer to center and a 4-0 lead. Arrieta -- who allowed four earned runs in six innings -- threw 37 pitches in the sixth.