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Rays pitcher Pruitt notches first 5-inning save in 15 years

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In an era of specialization in baseball, some consider a two-inning save to be long.

But a five-inning save? That’s practically unheard of.

However, that’s exactly what Tampa Bay Rays reliever Austin Pruitt did Sunday.

Pruitt entered the game at Tropicana Field with one out in the top of the fourth in relief of Vidal Nuno. He proceeded to close out the Rays’ 8-3 win over the Baltimore Orioles by pitching the final five and two-thirds innings.

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Nuno got the win and Pruitt picked up his first save of the year.

“I had one [save] last year that was three innings, but five and two-thirds innings, that’s lengthy,” said Pruitt told reporters after the game.

It had been 16 years since the last time there was a five-inning save in the regular season. That was recorded by Rangers reliever Joaquin Benoit, also against the O’s, in September 2002.

And since the save became an official stat in 1969, it’s happened only four times. The other two were the Rangers’ Horacio Pena (six innings, April 23, 1972) and the A’s Bob Locker (five and two-thirds innings, Aug. 12, 1970).

When you consider how the Rays have turned convention on its head this season, it might not be the last time we see a long save like that.

Tampa Bay has taken to using starters and relievers differently from any other team, perhaps in the modern era of the MLB.

The Rays don’t have starters, per se, who start and pitch until they are tired. They use relievers like Sergio Romo and Ryne Stanek to start the game and pitch to a few batters, and then they bring in a reliever.

Romo has started four of the Rays last eight games, only pitching the first inning. Sunday against the O’s he pitched one-third of an inning before giving way to Nuno and Pruitt.

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Do you like the Rays' unusual pitching strategy?

The Rays do it to keep teams off balance. Typically, the more a batter faces a starter, the better he starts to figure him out. But the starters might only see fireballer Romo, who has always been a relief pitcher, once before a new pitcher comes on.

The theory is also that it keeps teams off balance in terms of stacking their lineup for a righty or lefty starter.

Time will tell if it’s a strategy that will work over the long term.

For now, get used to seeing more unusual pitching stats from the Rays.

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Dave is a lifelong sports fan who has been writing for The Wildcard since 2017. He has been a writer for more than 20 years for a variety of publications.
Dave has been writing about sports for The Wildcard since 2017. He's been a reporter and editor for over 20 years, covering everything from sports to financial news. In addition to writing for The Wildcard, Dave has covered mutual funds for Pensions and Investments, meetings and conventions, money market funds, personal finance, associations, and he currently covers financial regulations and the energy sector for Macallan Communications. He has won awards for both news and sports reporting.
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