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Anatomy of Padres’ ninth-inning success

September 10, 2016

At 140 games and counting, the Padres’ unbeaten streak when leading after eight innings began a few days before the front office sold Huston Street to the Angels for a quartet of prospects in July 2014. Joaquin Benoit and Kevin Quackenbush handed it off to Craig Kimbrel last year, 39-year-old Fernando Rodney oversaw it for a half a season before rookie skipper Andy Green entrusted the streak to first-time closer Brandon Maurer.

The Padres have won 140 straight games when leading after eight innings, the longest active streak in the majors, according to STATS. The Orioles have the next longest active streak at 72 games. Here’s a look at who has piled up saves in the Padres streak, which dates back to July 7, 2014:

Craig Kimbrel – 39

Fernando Rodney – 17

Joaquin Benoit – 12

Brandon Maurer – 8

Kevin Quackenbush – 7

Ryan Buchter – 1

Huston Street – 1

Carlos Villanueva – 1

It has, against all odds, survived five blown saves in the ninth inning or later. It has employed eight different relievers in save situations. It is nearly twice as long as the next active streak in the majors.

The streak, indeed, is something to behold.

“Any time you can swing anything that long,” Maurer admitted, “it’s pretty impressive.”

Especially considering all the moving parts.

Among the best young closers in the game, Kimbrel converted 39 of his 43 save opportunities last year. The games in which he did stumble were all won in the Padres’ last at-bat, an oddity that Rodney managed to avoid altogether in converting all 17 save chances ahead of his trade to Miami.

Around that duo’s work, Benoit saved a dozen games after Huston Street’s final save in a Padres uniform, Quackenbush has closed out seven and Ryan Buchter and Carlos Villanueva each picked up a save before Maurer inherited the ninth inning, a job he’s held down by converting eight of his nine save opportunities. His lone hiccup occurred while attempting a four-out save in Miami late last month, while the most impressive of his saves is fetching a game-ending fly ball from David Ortiz with a runner on first base in a one-run game on Monday.

All told, the 26-year-old Maurer has a 3.09 ERA, 18 strikeouts and five walks in 23 1/3 innings since assuming the job from Rodney. Opposing hitters have a .231/.268/.330 batting line against him over that stretch.

“I think there’s room to improve,” Padres manager Andy Green said. “I think Brandon’s got more in him. He’s continuing to push forward. He’s really effective against lefties – the changeup plays well. He hasn’t quite had his slider all the time. When he’s aggressive and throws it with purpose and conviction, it’s got as much bite as anybody’s slider in the game.”