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08/21/08 12:23 AM ET

K-Rod's 48th save sets Angels record

Rodriguez closes out Rays on Wednesday to earn distinction

ST. PETERSBURG -- The season began with ankle pain, a modified delivery designed to reduce the stress on his lower body, a fastball not quite as fast as in the past, and doubts in a lot of minds across Southern California.

"A lot of ups and downs," Francisco Rodriguez said Wednesday night.

He'd just experienced one of his most significant ups, and the big smile on this most serious of athletes spoke volumes.

Having nailed down his 48th save, eclipsing his own Angels record from 2006, in a 5-4 win over the Rays at Tropicana Field, Rodriguez wasn't shy about setting his sights on bigger game.

"Hopefully, I'll get all the way to 58 ... then 68," K-Rod said. "Why stop now?"

This was not in character for a private, intense man from the mean streets of Caracas, Venezuela. But it clearly meant a lot, scaling this particular mountain in a season that began with so many question marks that he managed to turn into exclamation points.

K-Rod needs nine saves in the remaining 37 games to match the all-time record of 57 set by Bobby Thigpen of the 1990 White Sox.

If he maintains his pace, he'll finish with 62.

"Five weeks left, I should get 10 more if I stay healthy," he said.

He sighed, and resumed packing for the trip home to Southern California, where four games with the Twins await the Angels.

"I've been blessed," Rodriguez said. "I couldn't ask for more. It's been a tremendous season. I'll just continue to look for more opportunities and keep going."

He expressed embarrassment on the previous homestand after a dismal showing against the Mariners when he let a lead get away in a 12-inning, 10-7 loss. It snapped a four-game winning streak and sent the Angels on the road to Cleveland on a sour note.

"After that embarrassing outing against Seattle," he said, "I wanted to get back in the right direction. That game, I felt like I let the team down. I wanted to bounce back."

That he did, silencing the Rays in the bottom of the ninth to reach 48 -- a new Angels record. Next target: 57, and Bobby Thigpen.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.