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Craig Kimbrel needed just 11 pitches to notch his ninth save of the season — and to reach a historic milestone in his career.

Kimbrel posted a 1-2-3 ninth inning in the Red Sox’s 6-5 victory over the Rangers on Saturday, and by doing so he reached save No. 300 for his career.

In just his 494th career game, Kimbrel became the fastest player ever to reach 300 career saves, and he did it in just 330 save opportunities. He also became the youngest player to reach 300 saves as he doesn’t turn 30 until the end of the month.

All three of those are MLB records — Kimbrel reached 300 saves quicker than anyone in terms of appearances, save opportunities and age. The previous records were Mariano Rivera (537 appearances), Joe Nathan (335 save opportunities) and Francisco Rodriguez (age 31).

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Per the Red Sox press notes, of the 29 players with 300-plus saves, Kimbrel leads them all in save percentage, ERA, strikeouts per nine innings and opponent batting average.

Afterward, Kimbrel reflected on the achievements, which came just two days before the eighth anniversary of his MLB debut.

”It feels like forever, and also feels like it’s flown by,” Kimbrel said. ”Eight years ago today, I got called up for the first time. It’s neat to be able to get my 300th save on the same day. I’ve been a part of a lot of great teams. There’s a lot of save opportunities, a lot of chances. If it wasn’t for that, we wouldn’t be talking today.”

”I got an early chance at a young age on some good teams,” he said on reaching No. 300 at this point in his career. ”I’ve gotten a chance earlier than a lot of guys have.”

Kimbrel knows his baseball history as he is right about getting a chance to be a closer at an early age. The all-time saves leader, Rivera, didn’t become the Yankees closer until he was 27 years old and reached 300 saves when he was 34.

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The previous save king and now in second place all-time, Trevor Hoffman, had just 135 career saves before turning 30 years old.

Kimbrel has the second-most saves among active players, trailing only 41-year-old Fernando Rodney, who has 304 saves. The Red Sox closer also ranks tied for 27th in career saves.

Had this game taken place at Fenway Park, Kimbrel would have likely received a standing ovation from the hometown crowd. But since the Sox were on the road in Arlington, much of the celebration was reserved for the clubhouse.

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“They clapped for a long time,” Kimbrel said of his teammates. “It was nice to have these guys behind me and to show their appreciation for me — it’s really neat. Everything I do every night is to go out there and make sure what they do counts so it was really neat for them to be waiting on me. They’re waiting on me a lot, usually for a bus — not for me to get back in the clubhouse. It was very nice and I’m glad they did that.”

The win pushed the Red Sox record to 24-9, which is the best in the majors. This is tied for the second-best 33-game start in franchise history as Boston posted the same record in 2002 and went 26-7 in 1946.

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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