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Balfour gets A's-record 41st straight save

Athletics closer passes Eckersley's '91-92 mark, hasn't blown save in '13

PITTSBURGH -- This is why Grant Balfour never wanted to talk about it. He knew he would think about it if he did.

And that is what happened, as thoughts of a record joined him on the mound Monday in Pittsburgh. It was a record Balfour broke, passing Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley's Oakland mark of 40 consecutive saves from Sept. 15, 1991, to Aug. 7, 1992. Balfour put away No. 41 dating back to last year while securing a 2-1 A's win.

It was Balfour's 23rd of the season and 18th that came with a one-run lead.

Most consecutive saves all time
Player Saves Team(s) Years
Eric Gagne 84 Dodgers 2002-2004
Tom Gordon 54 Red Sox 1998-1999
Jose Valverde 51 Tigers 2010-2011
John Axford 49 Brewers 2011-2012
Brad Lidge 47 Astros, Phillies 2007-2009
Rod Beck 41 Giants 1993-1995
Trevor Hoffman 41 Padres 1997-1998
Heath Bell 41 Padres 2010-2011
Grant Balfour 41 Athletics 2012-
Dennis Eckersley 40 Athletics 1991-1992

"It's definitely a challenge, and I enjoy a challenge," Balfour said. "I love to compete. Three-run, two-run, one-run, they're all tough, but obviously one-runs are a bit tougher. It's just worked out along the way so far, and I'm very happy to hold on to a record that's been around for a while.

"At the same time, I can't let up. I've got a season to keep pitching in, and I want a lot more. I want to keep winning. I feel like we're doing good things here, and I enjoy playing here a lot. I just want to keep it going."

"Unbelievable," manager Bob Melvin said. "We'd prefer he didn't stop there. I think just as impressive is to do it over a two-year period. You have the momentum when you're pitching really well in one particular season, but to pick it back up again in a second year is impressive."

Since 1999, the only American League closer with a longer streak is Jose Valverde, who compiled 51 in a row for the Tigers between 2010 and 2011.

Balfour is the only Major League closer without a blown save this season, and he has not allowed a run in 15 of his last 16 appearances and 26 of his last 28. They are All-Star numbers for a pitcher who was not named to the All-Star team.

When rosters were announced Saturday, Balfour candidly spoke of his disappointment in this. He was broached about the subject again Monday night and said, "It'd be great to be there, great to be named."

"Let's just wait to see if it works out," he continued. "If I get that opportunity, I'll take it with arms wide open."

In the meantime, he can enjoy a record accomplished by no current All-Star.

"I realize it's been awhile since it's been done," Balfour said, "and obviously Eckersley, who holds the record, was a great pitcher, a great A, and I obviously respect what he did."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
Read More: Oakland Athletics, Grant Balfour