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CLOSER DU JOUR
The Giants are scrambling to find a closer, such as Jose Mesa of the Pirates or Ugueth Urbina of the Tigers, now that the clock has struck midnight for early-season surprise Matt Herges (left), middleman Jim Brower has already worked in a-career-high 55 games and setup man Felix Rodriguez continues to have a ninth-inning phobia. The need to replace Herges—who had 22 saves through Sunday, but had a 13.50 ERA and .514 opponents' batting average since July 1—is more proof that closers are as disposable as NFL placekickers.
Only five teams are using the same closer they had at the start of last season: the Angels ( Troy Percival), Braves ( John Smoltz), Dodgers ( Eric Gagne), Orioles ( Jorge Julio) and Yankees ( Mariano Rivera). More commonly, teams stumble upon a hot arm and ride if as long as possible. Not just anyone can save 25 games in a season-it only seems that way. Since 2001, 41 pitchers have saved 25 games in a season. More than half of them (21) are no longer closers, including such luminaries as Juan Acevedo, Antonio Alfonseca and Mike DeJean.
GONE WITH THE WIND
LIGHTS OUT IN HOUSTON
IT CAN'T GET MUCH WORSE
The Diamondbacks were putting up some oddly horrific numbers through Sunday, such as a 2-19 record under interim manager Al Pedrique, a 6-28 record when they face lefthanded starters and a Prairie View-like 1-15 record on Saturdays. Arizona's signature flaw, however, is its knack for losing close games. The Diamondbacks were 6-22 in games decided by one run, including 0-11 since June 20. Only the 1935 Braves finished a season with a worse record in such games. Here are the five teams with the worst records in one-run games since 1901.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
1. The Dodgers could use another bat, but they've established themselves as the favorites to win the NL West because of their bullpen. As one NL G.M. says, "You're pretty much done when they get a lead." L.A. relievers had lost only seven games.