Stat of the day: 2009 relief ERA leaders

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Minimum 50 innings. Listed along with each pitcher’s ERA are saves+holds and blown saves.
1. George Sherrill – 1.75 – 32 – 5
2. Trevor Hoffman – 1.76 – 36 – 3
3. Mariano Rivera – 1.82 – 44 – 2
4. Jeremy Affeldt – 1.84 – 33 – 0
5. Kiko Calero – 1.86 – 12 – 4
6. Andrew Bailey – 1.88 – 28 – 4
7. Jonathan Papelbon – 1.91 – 37 – 3
8. Darren O’Day – 1.93 – 22 – 0
9. Ryan Franklin – 1.95 – 39 – 5
10. Jose Mijares – 2.07 – 27 – 1
11. Jose Valverde – 2.08 – 26 – 4
12. Ronald Belisario – 2.09 – 12 – 7
13. David Aardsma – 2.10 – 42 – 4
14. Francisco Cordero – 2.19 – 39 – 4
15. LaTroy Hawkins – 2.20 – 30 – 4
16. Joe Nathan – 2.25 – 45 – 5
16. Joakim Soria – 2.25 – 29 – 3
18. Matt Guerrier – 2.33 – 32 – 3
19. Mike Gonzalez – 2.45 – 27 – 7
19. Brian Sanches – 2.45 – 8 – 3
These aren’t baseball’s top 20 relievers this season, but the top 10 or so are all in the mix here.
So who has really been the best? I see three possibilities. Rivera absolutely has to be considered, given that he’s blown just two of his 46 chances. But how about Affeldt? He’s made 72 appearances this year and hasn’t blown a single lead.
And then there’s candidate No. 3: Bailey. The big plus in his corner is that he’s thrown 81 1/3 innings, compared to 64 1/3 for Rivera and 58 2/3 innings for Affeldt. Also, he hasn’t allowed an unearned run all season. Rivera has allowed one and Affeldt two, so Bailey has them beat when you drop the E from ERA. Bailey has blown four leads, but he actually allowed a total of two runs in 5 1/3 innings in those games. Plus, he has six wins, more than Rivera (three) and Affeldt (one) combined.
I’d say it really comes down to Rivera and Bailey, and while you can argue that Bailey’s performance was more valuable, there’s still no doubt that Rivera is the reliever everyone wants protecting that one-run lead in the ninth.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.