Billy Wagner Earns Career Save No. 400
Billy Wagner notched the first save of his career on June 14, 1996 as a pitcher for the Houston Astros. Fourteen years and 11 days later Wagner reached the 400-save milestone.
Friday evening in Atlanta as his Atlanta Braves beat the Detroit Tigers 3-1, Wagner became the fifth pitcher in major league history to record 400 saves. He is the second left-hander to manage that feat.
Wagner pitched a perfect ninth inning to beat the Tigers. He struck out Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge and Austin Jackson and only needed 10 pitches to get the game finished. Wagner said he was nervous, even if no one could tell.
"[I was] nervous, very nervous," said Wagner. "We really needed this game and some of these guys can do some damage."
Added pressure was dealt by his kids, who were in attendance. "They were telling me about how it'd be great to get 400 while they were here."
Now that Wagner sits at 400 saves, he's among good company on the leaderboard. Trevor Hoffman leads the way with 596 saves, followed by Mariano Rivera with 542. Both Hoffman and Rivera are still pitching and adding to their save totals.
Retired pitchers Lee Smith and John Franco also sit ahead of Wagner with 478 and 424 saves, respectively.
Since that June 1996 game where Wagner chalked up his first save, he's played for five major league teams. In Houston he recorded 225 saves in nine years. His two years in Philadelphia got him 59 more. And then his little more than four seasons in New York with the Mets earned him 101 saves.
In 2009 Wagner spent a few months pitching in the American League for the Boston Red Sox. He did not record a save for Boston but pitched well enough in 15 appearances to lay the groundwork for a free agent contract in 2010 with the Braves.
While with his current Atlanta staff, Wagner has closed out 15 games. This season he's also won five games and has a 1.19 ERA.
After his 400th save Wagner recalled the night he recorded his first. It was a three-inning save in which Wagner faced big hitters Barry Bonds and Matt Williams.
"I was young and dumb and didn't know what I was doing," said Wagner. "I'd just go out there and throw hard and hope for the best."
Wagner is still throwing hard -- he reached 97 mph on the radar gun on Friday -- but there isn't a hitter around who would call him dumb.