No one ever made that prediction for Guardado, whose fast-ball seldom tops 90 mph. "I thought it was a joke when I got that call," he says. But Garden-hire liked Guardado's durability (his 431 appearances from 1996 to 2001 were the fourth most in the majors) and the way he pitched as an occasional stopper last season (12 saves in 14 chances). Guardado has been effective against lefties (.250 opponents' batting average this season) and dominating against righthanders (.191).
Romero, who relies on a hard sinker, is equally tough on righties and lefties. Gardenhire goes to him with runners on in the late innings, saving Guardado to start the ninth. The formula has worked: The Twins have the fourth-best bullpen ERA (3.53) in the league. "I have to do well as the closer," says Guardado. "My old job is gone."
Two series to watch for next weekend:
The Mariners have won six of 10 games against the Angels this season and at week's end led second-place Anaheim by one game in the AL West After sweeping Seattle at home last week, this series at Safeco Field is the Angels' best chance to make up ground until the two teams meet again in late September.
?Bombers by the Bay.
With 148 homers through Sunday's games, the Yankees are on pace to smash the single-season club record of 240, set in 1961. The Devil Rays have been taken deep 121 times, second most in the AL. Memo to the Rays' front office: Order extra baseballs before New York arrives for a three-game set.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]