Rodriguez ties saves record in win over Mariners
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP)—With the Los Angeles Angels cruising along with a 7-0 lead after seven innings, Francisco Rodriguez was kicking back in the bullpen, figuring he wouldn’t get his chance to tie a record.
Then Seattle scored three runs in the eighth, put runners on first and second with no outs in the ninth, and Rodriguez got the call. Greeted by rousing cheers as he took the mound, he got the final three outs Thursday night’s 7-4 win for his record-tying 57th save of the season.
“When it was 7-0 in the seventh inning, I was just trying to chill and watch the game and relax. This is like the third or fourth time it’s happened to me like this. But after their bats started coming alive, I started getting ready,” said Rodriguez, who has 16 games left to try to top the major league record set by Bobby Thigpen with the 1990 Chicago White Sox.
Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia also figured Rodriguez was getting the night off.
“When you’re sitting on a seven-run lead, really the furthest thing from your mind is, when do you get your closer up?” Scioscia said.
Rodriguez didn’t know anything about Thigpen until it began to look as if he might make a run at the record.
“I didn’t even know that he’s the one that had the record. I didn’t know about him until you guys (reporters) told me about him before the All-Star break,” he said. “I started thinking I could get to the record a couple of weeks ago, and I started thinking about it more and more the closer I got.
“I knew if the guys kept playing the way they’ve been playing, I was capable of doing it. That’s what I get paid for. But I’ve got to give the credit to my teammates and the guys who make the plays behind me. I’d be real selfish if I said I’ve done this by myself.”
His chance to break the record is one of the remaining details of the regular season for the Angels, who clinched their fourth AL West title in five years on Wednesday. None of those division titles have led to a World Series. Their only World Series title came in 2002 as a wild card—when Rodriguez was a 20-year-old sensation in October.
He wants another.
“I’ll tell you, I would trade the record for the ring. Obviously, my next step is to try to break the record, and after that, win the championship,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what I’m here for, and that’s what I really want right now.”
He may be pitching his final season for the Angels. He has said he wants to test the free agent market after this season, although both he and the Angels haven’t ruled out a chance he will return.
Rodriguez replaced Scot Shields with runners on first and second and no outs. He got Ichiro Suzuki to ground into a double play, gave up an RBI single to Jeremy Reed and a single to Adrian Beltre before finally ending it on Raul Ibanez’s broken-bat grounder to first.
Rodriguez ran toward the bag on Ibanez’s grounder, but first baseman Kendry Morales was able to make the play himself. Rodriguez lifted both arms, jumped and did a joyful little spin.
Seattle’s Brandon Morrow, a converted reliever who held the Angels to two runs in five innings in his second major league start, could only shake his head at Rodriguez’s numbers.
“For us, J.J. (Putz) had an unbelievable year last year, and he had 40 saves. Now Rodriguez has got 57,” Morrow said. “They have (89) wins and he has that many saves. Wow. That’s something.”
Although Rodriguez, who has developed a less violent delivery so he won’t re-injure his feet on the landing, has not pitched as many 1-2-3 ninths as in the past, he seems to be able to still turn it on when necessary.
“He has made some more games more interesting,” Morrow said. “But he knows when to turn up the intensity.”
Seattle pitcher Jarrod Washburn, formerly with the Angels, also marveled at Rodriguez’s accomplishment.
“How long has that record stood—18 years? To even have that many opportunities just tells you how good that ballclub is. And for him to be able to close the door that many times, that tells you he’s a talented guy and he always has been ever since he broke in with us in ’02,” Washburn said.
The 26-year-old Rodriguez has 203 saves and has blown six opportunities this year, one of those against the Mariners.
The right-hander from Venezuela went 5-1 in the 2002 postseason to help the Angels go all the way, in the process becoming the youngest pitcher ever to win a World Series game.
Weaver (11-10) had missed more than a week after cutting two fingers in a dugout accident on Sept. 2. He struck out three and walked three.
After taking a 2-0 lead against Morrow, the Angels jumped on reliever Sean Green for four runs and four hits during a five-run sixth. Jeff Mathis and Anderson both singled in two runs, and Vladimir Guerrero added an RBI single.
Morrow (2-3) gave up two runs and five hits, walked four and struck out four over five innings. The 24-year-old right-hander, moved out of the bullpen and into the rotation, had taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning of his first start, a 3-1 victory over the New York Yankees last Friday.
The game was delayed for several minutes when home plate umpire Eric Cooper was hit in the chest by a foul tip off Guerrero’s bat. Cooper went down and remained there momentarily, was checked out by Angels trainer Ned Bergert and, when Cooper lined up again behind the plate, received a rare—for an ump— ovation from the crowd. … Beltre returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a torn ligament in his left thumb and extended his hitting streak to 14 games with the single in the ninth. … Weaver cut his right index and ring fingers on staples under the dugout bench in Detroit during last week’s series. … Anderson played in his 2,000th regular-season game for the Angels. The only other active player to reach that total with one team is Atlanta’s Chipper Jones.
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