RandBall: Anthony Swarzak's quest for the four-inning save
- Blog Post by: Michael Rand
- April 17, 2013 - 3:18 PM
Ken Chia, a copy desk ace and a weekend Page 2 raconteur sent in a submission for RandBall which we particularly enjoyed. Ken, take it away:
The fans who remained for the end of Tuesday night's game at Target Field missed out on a chance at witnessing a rare baseball occasion, one that these days is rarer than a starter pitching a one-hitter or a batter hitting three home runs in a game.
The four-inning save.
Obviously, the four-inning save is not the kind of performance that draws attention to itself in baseball the way a diving catch does. But it does say that a relief pitcher was able to preserve a lead over the final four innings of a game, presumably after a starter was lifted following the first five.
In Tuesday's case, Anthony Swarzak was given the ball in the sixth inning with a one-run lead after Mike Pelfrey had thrown 96 pitches and given up four runs over five innings. Swarzak promptly struck out the side on 12 pitches in the sixth inning. He made the seventh and eighth innings look easy, too.
He came out for the ninth inning with a four-run lead and retired the first batter, but a Trevor Plouffe throwing error, followed by a single, ended Swarzak's night.
Thus -- and this is all according to the excellent Baseball-Reference.com -- Swarzak failed to become the first Twins pitcher to earn a four-inning save since Brian Bass did it in April 2008 against the White Sox, the only time in Ron Gardenhire's tenure that a reliever has gone four innings for a save. Perhaps not surprising given the way bullpens are handled in recent times, there have been only 38 four-inning saves in the major leagues since Gardenhire's first season of 2002, compared to 71 one-hitters and 109 three- or four-homer games.
There have been 24 four-inning saves in Twins history, but 15 of those came when the team was still at Met Stadium. There were only five in the 1980s and four in the 1990s; LaTroy Hawkins, in 2000, had the Twins' last four-inning save before Bass.
A save for Swarzak ultimately would have meant little in the grand scheme of things, although it would have been the first of his career. Ultimately, he did what he is paid to do as a long reliever, eat up innings. Tuesday's outing was his 14th relief appearance of at least three innings, all since 2011.
But where's the glory in that? No, the glamorous role in the bullpen goes to the closer, the guy who piles up the saves. That would be Glen Perkins, who with the final two outs of the game earned his third save of the season and the 21st of his career ... and the 216th save in team history that required less than a full inning of work.
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