06/27/2002 02:52 am ET
Sasaki reaches MLB milestone
Sasaki fastest to 100 saves
By Jim Street / MLB.com
SEATTLE -- The Mariners already had a closer when Kazuhiro Sasaki arrived from
Japan a little more than two years ago, armed with a two-year guaranteed
contract and a trophy case full of relief records from his homeland.
But the job Kaz wanted belonged to veteran Major League right-hander Jose Mesa.
"We were going to make (Sasaki) the setup man," manager Lou Piniella said, "but
he pitched so well that spring that he won the job. He has done an unbelievable
job since then."
A record-setting job, actually. Sasaki saved a rookie-record 37 games for
Seattle in 2000 and added another notch to his belt in Wednesday night's game.
The right-hander with a nasty sinker, above average fastball and a curveball
that is getting better each time out, notched his 100th career save with a
perfect ninth inning to secure Seattle's 1-0 victory over the Oakland Athletics
before 42,120 at SAFECO Field.
He reached 100 saves faster than anyone in MLB history -- just 160 appearances --
and obliterated the previous fastest-to-100 saves mark, set by Billy Koch, the
current Athletics closer who made his record run with the Blue Jays, saving his
100th game in his 192nd appearance.
"I'm proud of what I accomplished, but he did it in a lot fewer games than I did
and that's impressive," Koch said. "Congratulations to him. He is an excellent
pitcher who is going to have a lot more than 100 saves in his career."
Sasaki said the round saves number was tucked far in the back of his mind
Wednesday night when he walked in from the left field bullpen. He entered the
game only a few minutes after Jeff Cirillo drove in the game's only run with a
one-out single to center field, scoring Charles Gipson from second base.
"I was not thinking about that (100th save) at all," he said. "It was a close
game in a series that is a huge part of the first half of the season. I was
thinking about that and the hitters Oakland had coming up."
The heart of the Athletics' lineup batted in the ninth. David Justice fouled out
to catcher Dan Wilson. Eric Chavez struck out. Jermaine Dye grounded out.
Kaz's 18th save of the season became a walk in the park.
But that pretty much describes the remarkable season he is having. Sasaki has
allowed one earned run the entire season. That covers 28
appearances and 28 innings and the two blown saves he has both resulted because
of defensive misplays that led to unearned runs.
"I don't want to jinx him," fellow reliever Arthur Rhodes said, "but what he has
done is pretty awesome. Not only this season, but his entire career. He set all
kinds of records in Japan and now is setting records in America.
"He definitely knows what he's doing out there and he's been on a roll. He's in
a zone right now."
Sasaki, 34, holds the records in Japan for most career saves (229), most saves
in a season (45 in 1998) and he was a six-time All-Star for Yokohama. He had sub-1.00
ERAs twice (0.90 in 1997 and 0.64 in '98). His ERA this season is 0.32.
Sasaki's latest save assured the Mariners of a split in the four-game series
that began with Oakland coming to town as the hottest team in MLB. The A's
whipped the M's 13-2 in Monday night's opener to run their winning streak to
eight, but scored just one run in the next two games.
Veteran left-hander Jamie Moyer shut down Oakland for seven innings, allowing
just two singles.
But he departed with the game still scoreless.
"That was a well-played and well-pitched game on both sides," Piniella said.
"Jeff Cirillo came up with a big hit when we needed it. His offense is coming
around and that is good to see."
A variety of ailments kept the Mariners short-handed for the third game of the
four-game series. Mark McLemore was listed on the first lineup posted on the
message board outside manager Lou Piniella's office, but felt a twinge in his
back during pre-workout batting practice and was scratched from the lineup. 2B
Bret Boone, who had hoped to return to the lineup, missed another game because
of inflammation behind his left knee. DH Edgar Martinez went through pre-game
batting practice, but wasn't in the starting lineup. RH Jeff Nelson came through
his 28-pitch rehab assignment in Everett with flying colors. Nelson, sidelined
since May 8, had three bone chips removed from his right elbow on May 10. He
could be activated Thursday, Piniella said. ... All children (ages 14 and under)
who attend next Tuesday night's game against the Royals will receive an Ichiro
MVP Bobblehead. Club officials said even if they run out of actual Ichiro
Bobbledolls, each kid with a ticket to the game will receive a voucher entitling
him/her to pick one up when they become available. ... On this date in Mariners' history,
shortstop Rey Quinones hit two home runs off Royals left-hander Charlie
Liebrandt, leading the Mariners to a 8-0 victory. It was the only multi-homer
game of the 1988 season by a Mariner. . .
Jim Street covers the Mariners for MLB.com and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of MLB or its