- Adam Rubin, ESPN Staff Writer
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It took until Game No. 16, but K-Rod finally earned his first save of 2010 -- his longest wait in six years, since Troy Percival served as closer in Anaheim and Rodriguez didn't pick up his first save until May 9.
Rodriguez earned Thursday night's save, in a 5-2 win against the Chicago Cubs. He entered with a three-run lead, and with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning. Rodriguez coaxed a sacrifice fly from Mike Fontenot and struck out Tyler Colvin to complete the eighth, then tossed a scoreless ninth.
"It's about time," Rodriguez said about getting his first save this season. "It's been a while. I don't remember the last time I got one."
K-Rod had not recorded a five-out save since July 2, 2005 with the Angels. He hadn't had a successful conversion of more than one inning in three years, and had been 11-for-17 in save conversions when entering in the eighth since becoming a full-time closer.
His lone other save attempt as a Met when entering in the eighth came last Sept. 16 in Atlanta, when Rodriguez was tagged with a blown save and loss courtesy of an error by first baseman Daniel Murphy.
"It doesn't matter," Rodriguez said about being asked to work multiple innings. "As long as I can contribute to get a 'W' I couldn't care less. I'd contribute 2 1/3 if that's possible. As long as we get a win, I'd be fine with that."
Rodriguez's only other save chance this season had come Saturday in the 19th inning in St. Louis, when he surrendered a game-tying single to Yadier Molina. K-Rod had an alibi that day: He had thrown more than 100 pitches in the bullpen while warming up nine times waiting to enter the marathon game. Pelfrey notched the save in the 20th.
Manager Jerry Manuel realized after that game that he owed it to Rodriguez not to ask him to warm up multiple times. So when Rodriguez readied for eighth-inning work Thursday, Manuel resolved that the closer was going to enter. Manuel hoped the save only required four outs, not five, but rookie Jenrry Mejia got squeezed on a belt-high, full-count fastball to Geovany Soto and the bases were loaded with one out in the eighth when K-Rod was summoned.
Rodriguez, for his part, appreciated Manuel's newfound desire not to have the closer warm up multiple times in a game, which was born out of Saturday's burnout in the bullpen.
"I prefer that," K-Rod said. "I really prefer it, if you get me up, bring me in. It's not easy when you're up and down, up and down. It kind of gets me a little bit. It gets me a little bit off of rhythm."
Meanwhile, with Thursday's victory against the Cubs, the Mets took three of four games in the matchup and won a series for the first time this season. It took five series, the longest wait since 1997.
Manuel, trying to devise a way to jumpstart his team's offense, began the day contemplating alternative weekend lineups. And the Mets started slowly again Thursday, with Cubs left-hander Tom Gorzelanny holding them hitless until rookie first baseman Ike Davis' one-out single in the fifth.
Johan Santana matched scoreless frames with Gorzelanny, though, and the Mets finally broke through in the sixth.
David Wright lined an RBI double over left fielder Alfonso Soriano, scoring Jose Reyes to give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Jeff Francoeur then snapped a career-high 0-for-24 drought with a soft single through the right side of the infield that scored Wright.
Santana, meanwhile, took a scoreless effort into the seventh, when pinch hitter Kosuke Fukudome's RBI single chased the ace at 103 pitches. Santana had his 15-inning scoreless streak snapped, but the Cubs got no closer that frame as left-hander Pedro Feliciano eventually retired Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee.
Feliciano allowed two Cubs to reach in the eighth, the latter on a one-out walk to Soriano. So Manuel, whose bullpen options became more limited with Ryota Igarashi on the disabled list with a hamstring strain, summoned Mejia. The lone batter Mejia faced, Soto, walked.
Manuel then called upon K-Rod, who recorded the final five outs to match Pelfrey for the team lead in saves at one.
"Sooner or later it was going to have to end," Pelfrey said. "Or I hoped it did. I guess tonight was the night.
"The five outs is definitely more impressive. I was just sitting around for 20 innings."
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter.