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07/20/08 10:01 PM ET
K-Rod becomes fastest to 40 saves
Closer reaches tally in just 98 games; Smoltz second with 108
By Rhett Bollinger / MLB.com
ANAHEIM -- By striking out the side to preserve the Angels' 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Sunday, closer Francisco Rodriguez became the fastest pitcher to tally 40 saves in Major League history. Rodriguez has now saved 40 games in just 98 team games for the Angels this season, breaking John Smoltz's record for fastest to 40 saves. Smoltz got to 40 saves in 108 team games for the Braves in 2003. "To get to 40 at this time is unbelievable," Rodriguez said. "That's a target. That's pretty much a whole season. Last year I got to 40 saves in the last game of the season." But Rodriguez said he's trying not to think about possibly breaking Bobby Thigpen's record of 57 saves with the White Sox in 1990. "Now you guys make me think about that record," Rodriguez said. "I'm trying not to, because we have a long way to go." Rodriguez recorded his 40th save in 43 chances by striking out Coco Crisp, Sean Casey and Jacoby Ellsbury in order in the ninth. He struck out Crisp looking on a 3-2 curveball before he got Casey in an unusal way. Rodriguez struck out Casey on a check swing but catcher Jeff Mathis couldn't handle the pitch, as it bounced back to Rodriguez who threw to first for a strikeout scored 2-1-3. "Actually I didn't realize it [was a strikeout] until I got in," Rodriguez. "I thought for some reason the ball hit the bat. You never see a ball hit a catcher and go that far, so I thought he hit the ball." Rodriguez then struck out Ellsbury swinging to end the game, even though he had a 3-0 count against him earlier in the at-bat. Rodriguez has a 2.25 ERA in 44 innings pitched this season. The Angels are now 44-3 when Rodriguez pitches. "You're always smart when you give him the ball in the ninth inning, that's for sure," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. He's held up fine through the first-half workload and keeps going strong." Rodriguez has more saves than three teams' win total this season.
Rhett Bollinger is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.