K-Rod bests Thigpen, sets record for saves in a season with 58

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Francisco Rodriguez lifted his arms and head skyward, then sank to his knees.

By striking out Raul Ibanez, the Angels' No. 57 had a new number: 58.

K-Rod put himself in the record books with his 58th save this season, closing out the Los Angeles Angels' 5-2 win over Seattle on Saturday night.

"I knew it was going to be a really special moment, the way the fans cheered for me when I was coming in. It was amazing," Rodriguez said. "I haven't felt like this since we won the World Series."

With his third save in four days, including Wednesday's AL West-clinching victory, Rodriguez topped Bobby Thigpen's mark with the 1990 Chicago White Sox.

Rodriguez said he sensed the presence of his grandfather, who helped raise him in their poor neighborhood in Venezuela.

"I felt like he was right next to me," Rodriguez said. "He's with me every day. I would give up anything to have him right next to me and enjoy this moment. But I've got to deal with it.

"I know he's happy and proud of me right now."

After his quiet moment on the mound at the end of the game, his teammates surrounded him and the other Angels relievers came running in from the bullpen to join the celebration.

Rodriguez ran over toward the first-base dugout and blew kisses to his young daughters in the stands, then went over to the third-base dugout and doffed his cap for the crowd.

"It's unbelievable. Finally I did it.

"It's been an amazing year," he said, praising his fellow relievers. "Without them I couldn't have done this."

Cameras flashed as Rodriguez came on in the ninth. He quickly got in trouble, allowing a leadoff double to Miguel Cairo and walking Luis Valbuena on four pitches.

Ichiro Suzuki followed with a chopper up the middle that second baseman Sean Rodriguez tapped to shortstop Brandon Wood for the forceout. Rodriguez then struck out Wladimir Balentien and Ibanez.

Seattle starter Ryan Feierabend was hoping the Mariners would delay Rodriguez's record.

"Closers aren't perfect at all times," he said. "After we got a couple of people on, I thought we had a good chance.

"But he battled back and got his 58th. Good for him."

Los Angeles starter Jon Garland noted that Rodriguez has closed out 58 of the Angels' 91 wins, and said, "He's probably our MVP, being in that many games and shutting them down the way he has.

"The guy's got a reputation over seven years in the big leagues that when he comes in, he's not going to give in. When he's coming in, you know the door's going to be shut."

The saves record safely secured, Rodriguez has a goal for next month.

"The next step is to get the ring," he said.

A postseason sensation as a 20-year-old rookie in 2002 when the Angels captured their only World Series, Rodriguez hopes to help them win another. The Angels have baseball's best record, so that doesn't seem much of a stretch.

"I just want to continue the way I'm pitching right now and stay sharp for the playoffs," he said. "My next goal is trying to win a championship."

Juan Rivera, filling in for Vladimir Guererro, had four hits that included a two-run homer and club record-tying three doubles. He pulled up lame at second base in the eighth on his third double and came out of the game with a slight injury in his right hip.

Garland (14-8) went six innings, giving up two runs in the first, then blanking the Mariners over the next five. Darren Oliver pitched the seventh and Scot Shields the eighth to set the stage for Rodriguez.

Feierabend (1-3) pitched into the sixth and gave up four runs and seven hits.

Adrian Beltre's sacrifice fly and Yuniesky Betancourt's RBI single staked Seattle to a 2-0 lead in the opening inning, then Rivera tied it up with his homer to left-center off Feierabend after Torii Hunter singled in the second.

Those same two combined to give Los Angeles a 3-2 lead in the fourth, with Hunter doubling and coming home on Rivera's two-base hit. Rivera doubled again leading off the sixth inning and scored on Wood's single to build the lead to 4-2. Wood's sacrifice fly in the eighth provided the final run.

Game notes
Beltre, who went 0-for-3 to end a 15-game hitting streak, has decided to undergo ligament replacement surgery on his left thumb and arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder next Thursday. Beltre, who hurt his thumb last season but continued to play, will make his final appearance of the year in Sunday's series finale. ... Guerrero, who left after the fourth inning of the previous game with a sore right knee, is day-to-day.