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Nathan in elite company among closers

Nathan in elite company among closers

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KANSAS CITY -- Joe Nathan picked up his 40th save on Saturday night in the Rangers' 3-1 victory over the Royals. Nathan is only the fourth reliever who has had a 40-save season after his 38th birthday.

Mariano Rivera had three such seasons, while Trevor Hoffman had two and Jose Mesa had one. This is Nathan's fourth season of at least 40 saves and his first since 2009. Nathan now has 341 career saves, 11th most in Major League history. He is three short of Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers, who is 10th with 338.

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Nathan's scoreless inning left him with a 1.51 ERA for the season. He joins Neal Cotts, who has a 1.04 ERA, and Tanner Scheppers, who has a 1.96 ERA, to give the Rangers three relievers with an ERA under 2.00.

If that holds up, the Rangers will be the first American League team to have three relievers with an ERA under 2.00 for the season with a minimum of 50 innings and 80 percent of them pitched in relief. The 2003 Dodgers and the '02 Braves also had three relievers with an ERA under 2.00. The Braves could end up that way again this season with Luis Avilan, David Carpenter and Craig Kimbrel.

The Rangers' bullpen went into Sunday's game with a 2.94 ERA, second lowest in the AL. The Royals led with a 2.55 ERA. The club record for lowest bullpen ERA in one season is 2.91, set in the strike-shortened season of 1981.

The Rangers were able to avoid using the bulk of their bullpen on Saturday when Matt Garza pitched eight-plus innings. Nathan was the only one used.

"That was huge," manager Ron Washington said.

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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