Jason Motte may become the first Cardinals pitcher since the 19th century to record all of the team’s saves in one season.
Motte has earned all 33 of the Cardinals’ saves this 2012 season.
The last pitcher other than Motte to record a save for St. Louis was Octavio Dotel, who retired the only batter he faced, in a 4-3 Cardinals victory over the Phillies on Sept. 19, 2011. Boxscore
Since the save rule officially was adopted by the major leagues for the 1969 season, no Cardinals team has had one pitcher account for all of its saves in one year.
Researchers, such as those at retrosheet.org, retroactively have calculated saves before 1969. The last Cardinals pitcher to record all of the team’s saves in one season was the estimable Cy Young, with one in 1899, a search of yearly team statistics shows.
The last time a Cardinals team came closest to having one pitcher account for all of its single-season saves was in 1995. That year, Tom Henke, in his last big-league season, had 36 saves and rookie T. J. Mathews had two.
In his lone Cardinals season, Henke, 36, became the seventh big-league pitcher to achieve 300 career saves when he held off the Braves in a 4-3 Cardinals victory on Aug. 18, 1995, at St. Louis. Boxscore
Henke was an admirer of reliever Rich “Goose” Gossage, who also was in the 300-save club. “Goose is one of my all-time heroes,” Henke said to The Sporting News. “You could see the fear in the batters’ eyes (versus Gossage). If somebody were to mention my name alongside his, that would be a tremendous accomplishment.”
Henke had 27 saves in 1995 before Mathews, 25, got his first big-league save on Aug. 25 at St. Louis against the Rockies.
Mathews entered in the eighth inning to protect a 6-3 Cardinals lead. He struck out the side, retiring catcher Joe Girardi, shortstop Walt Weiss and pinch-hitter Ellis Burks.
Cardinals manager Mike Jorgensen may have been considering bringing in Henke to pitch the ninth for the save. But when the Cardinals scored twice in the bottom of the eighth, stretching their lead to 8-3, Jorgensen let Mathews pitch the ninth. Again, Mathews retired the side in order, striking out left fielder Eric Young and right fielder Dante Bichette and inducing center fielder Mike Kingery to ground out to first. Boxscore
Under big-league rules, Mathews earned a save because he entered with a lead of no more than three runs and then finished a game won by his team.
Mathews’ other 1995 save was achieved with a scoreless inning in St. Louis’ 4-2 victory over the Pirates on Sept. 18. Only 8,858 attended at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh because the NFL Steelers had a game that Monday night against the Dolphins. Mathews set down catcher Don Slaught and second baseman Carlos Garcia on groundouts and struck out third baseman Kevin Young. Boxscore
After 1995, the Cardinals three times had seasons in which only three relievers recorded saves. Those were:
_ 1997: Dennis Eckersley (36), Mark Petkovsek (2) and Rigo Beltran (1).
_ 2002: Jason Isringhausen (32), Steve Kline (6), Dave Veres (4).
_ 2007: Jason Isringhausen (32), Ryan Franklin (1), Randy Flores (1).