K-Rod ties record as Halos survive rally
Closer finishes off Mariners to match Thigpen with 57th save
ANAHEIM -- For Francisco Rodriguez, a World Series champion at age 20 in 2002, records are made to be broken, but rings are forever.
Having matched Bobby Thigpen's single-season saves record on Thursday night, nailing down No. 57 in a 7-4 victory over the Mariners at Angel Stadium, K-Rod put it in perspective.
"Tell you what," he said, "I'd trade the record for a ring. To win a championship, not every year you can win a championship. That's what I'm here for, and that's what I really want now.
"I look forward to continue doing what I'm doing and staying healthy for the full year."
After Jered Weaver, recovered from cuts to two fingers on his pitching hand, had worked six scoreless innings and the Angels had a seven-run lead with a five-run sixth inning, K-Rod thought he would have a night off in the afterglow of the American League West title clinching on Wednesday.
"It was 7-0 in the sixth, seventh inning, I was trying to chill, watch the game and relax," Rodriguez said. "This is the third or fourth time it's happened. After they started swinging the bats and coming close, I started getting ready."
The Mariners scored three in the eighth against Justin Speier, who yielded a leadoff homer to Ichiro Suzuki and three more hits for two runs before Scot Shields came in for the final out.
Shields, Rodriguez's comrade in arms late in games since 2005 when K-Rod became the full-time closer, faltered in the ninth, yielding a pair of singles with none out. Suddenly, it was closing time.
Rodriguez quickly induced a double-play grounder from Ichiro, but singles by Jeremy Reed and Adrian Beltre brought dangerous Raul Ibanez -- 23 homers and 105 RBIs -- to the plate with a chance to tie it.
Shattering his bat, Ibanez rolled one to Kendry Morales at first base, and the historic save was in the books.
All-time single-season saves leaders
"When you're sitting on a seven-run lead," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, "the furthest thing from your mind is getting your closer in. But when it's a save opportunity, Frankie's going to get it. He's done a great job.
"You can't help but pull for him. He's had an incredible season, an unbelievable career. When he gets one more, it's going to be something that's special. I know Bobby Thigpen and how hard he worked for his 57 saves."
Rodriguez didn't know anything about Thigpen until the All-Star break, when he reached New York with 38 saves, more than anyone had taken to the Midsummer Classic.
"Not at all," K-Rod said when asked if he was familiar with Thigpen's record-breaking 1990 season for the White Sox. "I didn't even know he had the record until the All-Star break when people started bringing it up."
One day after the clinching of their fourth AL West title in five seasons, and seventh in franchise history, the Angels kept their foot on the accelerator.
Toward their next goal of achieving the Majors' best record, guaranteeing home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the Angels took a one-game lead over the idle Rays.
With Weaver in a nice groove in his first outing since Aug. 30, the offense hummed along.
Garret Anderson, playing his 2,000th game for the Angels, drove in three runs with a pair of singles.
Jeff Mathis delivered a two-run single to halt an 0-for-25 slide, and Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez each had a double and single, Wood driving in a run. Morales also had two hits, scoring a run.
Anderson's RBI single in the third inning and Wood's RBI single in the fourth were all the Angels could manage against Mariners starter Brandon Morrow (2-3) through five innings. They erupted for five runs against the Mariners' bullpen in the sixth, Vladimir Guerrero picking up his 84th RBI with a single. Anderson has 78 RBIs.
Weaver didn't give up a hit until the fourth inning and allowed only two runners to reach scoring position, walking three and hitting a batter while striking out three.
"I didn't feel it on anything I threw," Weaver said of the cuts on his right middle and ring fingers from a dugout accident in Detroit on Sept. 2. "I just wanted to try to throw strikes and keep it close. I felt good for the most part. We had a couple of great defensive plays" -- notably Gary Matthews Jr. robbing Ichiro with a diving stab in the fifth -- "and the boys swung the bats in the sixth."
The victory, moving his record to 11-10, was Weaver's first since Aug. 8 when he beat the Yankees.
Right-hander Jason Bulger continued his strong work -- 5 2/3 scoreless dominant innings since his Sept. 1 callup -- with a perfect seventh, before the bullpen set it up for K-Rod in an unfamiliar way.
"A save is a team record," Scioscia said. "It's helping us win games and get pressure outs. Frankie's been as consistent as any reliever has been in the game this year."
With an 89-57 record, the Angels need to go 11-5 the rest of the way for the franchise's first 100-win season. The club record is 99 by the 2002 World Series champions.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.