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Two ends of the relief continuum September 21, 2015

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball, Sports.
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The Royals’ Danny Duffy nailed a three-inning save against the Tigers on the 20th. Now, it’s called a three-inning save, but Duffy did something about two to three pitchers do each year – he actually pitched four innings in relief. Recently moved to the pen, Duffy was still in shape to pitch four innings, allowing two hits and no runs while striking out six in relief of starter Kris Medlen. This year, only the Rays’ Matt Andriese has joined Duffy in the four-inning save club.

Four seems to be a soft limit under normal circumstances. There’s a handful of exceptions – Dick Hall recorded an eight-inning save in 1961, and 1920 was weird – but in recent memory, the longest save was a seven-inning effort by Joaquin Benoit in relief of Aaron Myette (who was ejected after four pitches and started the following day as well) and winning pitcher Todd Van Poppel. Ignoring Benoit, and Madison Bumgarner‘s brilliant five-inning save in the last game of the 2014 World Series, the last time a pitcher went 5 innings in a save was Blas Minor saving a game for the Pirates against the Mets in 1993.

On the other end of the spectrum, Huston Street recorded his 38th save for the Angels against the Twins on the 19th. He was called in to pitch only the last third of an inning – why would Mike Scioscia do that? Well, because Street had recorded his 37th save in a full inning pitched earlier that day in a 12-inning win. The Angels had used four other relievers to get to Street, and Los Angeles pitcher Garrett Anderson was crumbling in the ninth inning of game 2, so Scioscia waved for his closer. That doesn’t happen often; Jason Motte, Josh Collmenter, and Mark Lowe have all recorded saves on “negative” rest this year, but never two saves in one day. Jenrry Mejia came close on May 25 of last year, but as always, he was a disappointment; he saved game 2 after winning game 1. Joe Smith is the most recent one: he recorded saves 8 and 9 on July 1 of 2014, also for the Angels.

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