(BaseballStL) -- Standing in front of his locker minutes after closing out a series sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, Edward Mujica couldn’t help but grin every time he heard the word “thirty.”
That’s because for the 19th time in Cardinals history, the team has a 30-save closer -- and an unlikely one at that.
“It’s unbelievable,” Mujica said. “I never started thinking about being closer for this team and now I have thirty saves. That’s pretty good for me.”
Even with the early news that closer Jason Motte would be out for the season, Mujica was thought to be a right-handed reliever in the bullpen. A pretty generic role for a pitcher with a very unlikely story.
It wasn’t until the early season struggles of Mitchell Boggs, who closed out only two of his five save opportunities with St. Louis this season, did Mujica step in to close out a game.
After allowing only a solo home run in five innings pitched over five appearances, Mujica got his first chance as closer on April 18. He allowed two hits and threw 19 pitches to get the final four outs of a 4-3 victory against the Phillies for save No. 1.
A little more than three months later, Mujica collected No. 30 against the same Phillies in a 3-1 win on Thursday night.
“It’s pretty impressive considering he got a real late start compared to everybody else stacking up the saves,” Matheny said. “Where would we be right now if he hadn’t stepped up? We’re very proud of what he has been able to do and he should be too.”
Mujica, who was selected to his first All-Star game this season, has blown as many saves as issued walks this season. That number is only two.
“I’m just going out there trying to throw the first pitch strike every time,” Mujica said. “It’s helped me a lot going right after the hitter. When you have the first pitch strike you’re going to be ahead all the time.”