Trevor Rosenthal has had his ups and downs as a first-year closer, but he registered his 33rd and 34th saves Saturday and Sunday as the St. Louis Cardinals took two of three from Milwaukee.
Rosenthal worked around Jean Segura's leadoff double in the Cardinals' 9-7 victory Saturday that gave Justin Masterson his first win with St. Louis. On Sunday, he escaped a first-and-second, one-out jam in their 3-2 win Sunday that preserved veteran John Lackey's initial victory with the Cardinals.
Rosenthal, who had five strikeouts in the two appearances to give him 201 in his career, leads the major leagues in saves, ahead of Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel and Milwaukee's Francisco Rodriguez (32 apiece).
"I feel like my mentality has been pretty consistent," said Rosenthal, who has four blown saves. "Obviously, there's ups and downs, but overall, I feel like I've been pretty consistent. Every day I have the opportunity to pitch is a blessing. I don't take it for granted, so I'm trying to enjoy it while I'm here."
Rosenthal prefers to spread the credit. The right-hander took on the closer's duties in the final weeks of the 2013 regular season and had four saves in the postseason.
"Our bullpen has done a great job," he said. "(Kevin) Siegrist is back, (Sam) Freeman has done a great job and (Pat) Neshek has been unbelievable. Other guys have stepped in, too, so we've been in a good spot late in games."
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Rosenthal, despite his interest in being a starter, is right where he belongs.
"I see a guy that's well-suited for that spot, and I can't say that about everybody," Matheny said. "You guys have seen his demeanor, whether it's on the mound or in the clubhouse (after a game). It seems pretty consistent when he shuts the door and when he's had a few struggles. That's one of those key characteristics of a guy who can do that job."
Matheny noted Rosenthal's final pitch of the game Saturday --an 87-mph changeup that struck out Gerardo Parra on the ninth pitch of the at-bat. Rosenthal had thrown Parra seven fastballs, one of them touching 100 mph, before fooling him with the off-speed.
"His stuff is there, and it's continuing to improve," Matheny said. "We're seeing that extra little zip on the velocity, but the best pitch he threw was the last pitch of the game. He pulled the string; that (changeup) is getting better, and that's going to be effective against right-handers and left-handers."
Matheny said Rosenthal's changeup has become a "very usable weapon." Rosenthal, however, has thrown the pitch just 17 percent of the time, slightly more than last year (16 percent).
"When guys get in the box, especially against a hard thrower, and they're fouling, fouling, fouling, they are real close to making something happen," Matheny said. "You've got to do something to speed them up, slow them down or raise or lower their eye level. So I think (the changeup) is a good pitch."
Rosenthal's control has improved, too. He has issued 27 walks in 51 2/3 innings, but only four in his last 14 games and 13 1/3 innings.
Rosenthal acknowledged the greater comfort zone he has found with his changeup.
"One of the (important) things is throwing strikes and getting ahead," he said. "It helps make other pitches effective when you get late into the count. I feel about the same (with the changeup). It's always about making adjustments day to day to see what works."