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Soriano's latest feat is flawless

Rafael Soriano saved Monday’s game about as efficiently as you can, striking out the side on nine pitches.

Associated Press

Rafael Soriano saved Monday’s game about as efficiently as you can, striking out the side on nine pitches.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Rafael Soriano was effective in closing out Monday's 4-3 win over the Angels. And certainly efficient.

But most of all, he was immaculate.

Soriano became the 41st pitcher in major-league history to strike out the side on the minimum nine pitches, and just the third to get a save as he recorded what is called an Immaculate Inning.

"I didn't know that," Soriano said Tuesday. "I didn't know until you told me that it was a big deal."

Some of the game's biggest-name pitchers are on the list, including three Hall of Famers who did it twice in their careers — Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax and Nolan Ryan — plus Bob Gibson and Jim Bunning.

And there are some other names that make it appear a random collection, including ex-Rays Brandon Backe and Jason Isringhausen, and journeymen such as Buddy Carlyle and Rick Helling.

As Soriano was making history against the Angels on Monday, his bullpen mates — as they realized what he was doing — watched in amazement as he got Erick Aybar, Mike Napoli and rookie Peter Bourjos all swinging at strike three, and recorded his major-league-leading 38th save while doing so.

"Unbelievable. I was kind of giddy out there," Dan Wheeler said. "That was impressive, really impressive. I joked with him after the game, 'That was efficient — don't be afraid to mix in a ball.' "

"It's definitely a cool thing," Randy Choate said. "The guy's done everything else this year, so why not just put something else on the list."

Catcher Kelly Shoppach knew Soriano hadn't thrown any balls, but he didn't initially realize he was party to a newsworthy event.

"That's awesome," Shoppach said. "I didn't know how rare it was. That's pretty unbelievable."

Soriano had good command and velocity of his fastball on Monday, and obviously good control. But Shoppach said he may have had something else working.

"He gave up a run the last time out," Shoppach said. "So generally that happens. He probably had (an attitude)."

Manager Joe Maddon said he could tell from Soriano's first pitch — even though it was his third consecutive day of work — that he was going to be on.

"I just thought he came out sharp location, sharp velocity," Maddon said. "There wasn't the 88-90 (mph), it was 92, where he wanted it to be, 93. …

"This guy as a closer is different in the sense that he pitches. He just doesn't go out there and try to rush a fastball by somebody; he pitches, he locates, he knows what he's doing.

"He just had exceptional command. Some of those pitches were out of the (strike) zone (but) he made guys chase."

The only others to do so while getting a save were LaTroy Hawkins for the Cubs, against the Marlins, on Sept. 11, 2004, and Mel Rojas for the Expos, against the Mets, on May 11, 1994, though he pitched two innings.

Soriano was the first pitcher to do it this season. Pittsburgh's Ross Ohlendorf did it on Sept. 5, 2009, against St. Louis, and the last in the American League was New York's A.J. Burnett, on June 20, 2009, against Florida.

Soriano is the first Ray to log an Immaculate Inning, though former Rays minor-leaguer Chris Mason did it for Double-A Montgomery in 2007.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Soriano's latest feat is flawless 08/25/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 2:06am]
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