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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

How rare is Fernando Salas’ 44-pitch save?

The last time I wrote about new St. Louis Cardinals closer Fernando Salas here, his then-perfect 10-for-10 record in save opportunities was quickly ended.

The combination of not being overly superstitious and the fact that Salas keeps getting the job done in one of the most difficult jobs in baseball means the 26-year-old receives another call out here.

On Tuesday night, on the road in Houston, Salas was asked to clean up a major mess, with no outs in the eighth and two runners on base. The Cardinals led by only 6-3 at the time.

After a walk, Salas faced the Astros’ 1-2-3 hitters, collecting a harmless fly ball in between a pair of strikeouts.

With a shaky Cardinals pen, Salas was asked to pitch a second inning. Though he gave up a pair of hits and a run in the ninth, the eighth-inning escape was the difference-maker in St. Louis’ victory.

All told Tuesday night, Salas threw 44 pitches, 31 strikes. He collected his 11th save of the season.

While Salas can pitch multiple innings, his heritage is not as a long man or a converted starter. Prior to 2011, the right-hander appeared in 145 minor league games since joining the system in 2007. His only starts were four games with Palm Beach in his first season. Salas also had two starts in 43 Mexican League appearances in 2005-06.

I asked researcher Tom Orf to pull the list of the most pitches thrown by a Cardinals reliever when securing a save. Only ten pitchers have tossed more than 44 pitches in this kind of situation since the save stat came into being.

Salas is among a group tied for 11th – a list that includes ex-closer Ryan Franklin, who also threw a 44-pitch save in 2008. The record of 51 pitches is held jointly by a pair of hurlers – Mike Matthews in 2001 and Juan Agosto in 1991.

Some, though not all, are hurlers more known for their time in the rotation – names like Bob Tewksbury, Joel Pineiro, Matt Morris and Kent Bottenfield. Former closer Todd Worrell made the list twice with two 40-plus pitch saves in 1988.

St. Louis Cardinals, relievers, most pitches thrown in a save

Rk Player Date Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Str
T1 Mike Matthews 9/10/2001 MIL W 8-0 7-9f ,S 3.0 0 0 0 2 4 0 51 31
T1 Juan Agosto 9/30/1991 MON W 11-1 7-9f ,S 3.0 3 1 1 1 5 0 51 31
T3 Omar Olivares 1991-04-20 (1) PHI W 12-1 7-9f ,S 3.0 2 1 1 2 2 0 49 27
T3 Lindy McDaniel 6/1/1960 LAD W 5-2 5-9f ,S 4.1 2 0 0 0 3 0 49 33
T5 Brad Thompson 5/8/2005 SDP W 15-5 7-9f ,S 3.0 2 1 1 1 2 1 48 33
T5 Harry Fanok 5/9/1963 LAD W 10-7 8-9f ,S 2.0 2 2 2 4 1 0 48 27
T7 Bob Tewksbury 4/13/1990 PHI W 11-0 7-9f ,S 3.0 3 0 0 1 1 0 47 32
T7 Scott Terry 6/18/1988 PIT W 6-3 7-9f ,S 3.0 3 2 2 1 2 1 47 28
T7 Hoyt Wilhelm 1957-06-16 (2) BRO W 8-4 6-9f ,S 4.0 0 0 0 0 3 0 47 31
10 Ellis Kinder 5/4/1956 BRO W 10-3 7-9f ,S 3.0 1 0 0 0 0 0 45 27
T11 Fernando Salas 6/7/2011 HOU W 7-4 8-9f ,S 2.0 2 1 1 1 3 0 44 31
T11 Ryan Franklin 6/20/2008 BOS W 5-4 8-9f ,S 2.0 3 1 1 2 1 0 44 29
T11 Rene Arocha 7/30/1994 CHC W 10-7 8-9f ,S 1.2 3 0 0 2 3 0 44 27
T11 Frank Cimorelli 7/1/1994 COL W 11-4 7-9f ,S 3.0 2 0 0 1 1 0 44 27
T11 Todd Worrell 9/18/1988 CHC W 5-4 8-9f ,S 2.0 5 2 2 0 2 0 44 35
T16 Joel Pineiro 8/22/2008 ATL W 18-3 7-9f ,S 3.0 5 2 2 1 1 0 43 28
T16 Lee Smith 6/15/1991 LAD W 5-4 8-9f ,S 2.0 3 0 0 1 2 0 43 29
T18 Ricky Bottalico 6/5/1999 DET W 7-2 7-9f ,S 3.0 0 0 0 0 3 0 42 26
T18 Todd Worrell 4/12/1988 CHC W 7-5 8-9f ,S 2.0 0 1 1 2 2 0 42 27
T18 Lloyd Merritt 6/15/1957 BRO W 6-5 7-9f ,S 3.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 42 26
T21 Matt Morris 5/30/2000 ARI W 6-1 7-9f ,S 3.0 2 0 0 1 1 0 41 24
T21 Scott Terry 8/3/1988 PHI W 4-2 7-9f ,S 3.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 41 29
T23 Ricky Bottalico 4/16/1999 HOU W 5-3 8-9f ,S 2.0 1 0 0 1 4 0 40 23
T23 Kent Bottenfield 6/14/1998 ARI W 2-0 6-9f ,S 4.0 2 0 0 0 2 0 40 24
T23 Lee Smith 4/11/1991 CHC W 5-4 8-9f ,S 1.1 3 2 2 2 2 0 40 27

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