Hoffman sets major league record with 479th saveSep 24, 2006 - 11:11 PM SAN DIEGO (Ticker) -- Trevor Hoffman finished off another outstanding effort by a starting pitcher with a record-setting performance.
Hoffman recorded his major league-record 479th career save after Clay Hensley pitched six outstanding innings, as the San Diego Padres completed a three-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates with their second consecutive 2-1 victory.
Russell Branyan and Josh Bard hit solo homers for the Padres (83-72), who closed out their home season with 10 wins in their last 11 games to move two games ahead of Los Angeles in the National League West Division.
"It's going to be a dogfight," Hoffman said of the playoff chase. "That's the beauty of this individual moment being kind of pushed aside and the pennant race taking the forefront. Ultimately, our goal is to get to the postseason, and that takes precedence."
Entering to his personal theme song "Hell's Bells," Hoffman struck out the first two hitters in the ninth. After pinch hitter Freddy Sanchez grounded out, allowing the righthanded closer to surpass Lee Smith in the record books, a wild celebration ensued at the mound. The 38-year-old received a hug from every member of the team and then addressed the crowd of 41,392.
"It's overwhelming, to be totally honest with you," Hoffman said in the locker room. "It becomes a very humbling experience. It's hard to put into words what it truly feels like. Knowing that it was the last game at home, and wanting to do it here for a number of reasons, that definitely added to it."
However, Hoffman's celebration could not have taken place without the third outstanding start by a Padres starter. After Chris Young carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning in the series opener and Jake Peavy struck out 11 in eight dominant innings Saturday, Hensley (11-11) set a career high with nine strikeouts.
"My main focus was to just keep the game as close as possible and try to get the ball to (Hoffman)," Hensley said. "I'm happy about (the strikeouts), but I'm not really a big strikeout pitcher, so whenever anything like that happens for me, it's just kind of like icing on the cake."
The righthander yielded just a run and seven hits and did not walk a batter. He shut down the Pirates after three first-inning singles produced a run to win his third consecutive start.
"I didn't think he had his best stuff, but he was effectively wild today," Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. "He got it done. He's just done a great job. We needed it, because we had a tough time getting runs in, and he came through for us."
Cla Meredith continued his outstanding relief work with two scoreless frames, setting the stage for Hoffman, who notched his NL-leading 43rd save and 27th all-time against Pittsburgh.
"It's a special day when you get a big win like this and Trevor reaches his milestone," Bochy said. "I caught myself reflecting back on all of the times he's been out there, and he's been out there a lot. The crowd was tremendous, and it was just a great day."
Branyan hit a monstrous homer, his fifth since joining the club from Tampa Bay, in the fourth inning off Pittsburgh starter Marty McLeary. The blast was estimated at 453 feet, tying Andruw Jones of the Atlanta Braves for the longest home run ever ever at Petco Park. Jones struck his on July 15.
Bard set a career high with his ninth blast in the sixth off Juan Perez (0-1) that gave San Diego a 2-1 lead.
"These are all big games, and tight ballgames the last couple," Bochy said. " We had chances to have big innings, but they got away from us. We got the two big home runs, but we kept it close for (Hoffman)."
McLeary allowed a run and four hits in five innings.
"Marty McLeary threw great today," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "To pitch the five innings that he did, and 70 some-odd pitches, and he's had a couple of relief appearances during the course of this month, I'd say that's an admirable job."
Pittsburgh dropped to 1-5 against San Diego on the year, and scored just four runs in suffering the series sweep.
"We didn't swing the bats well all series, and it showed again today," Pirates right fielder Xavier Nady said. "It's been tough for us, but we get to go home now and hopefully we'll get something going again as we get to the offseason."
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