A closer in baseball should have both a dominating fastball and nerves of steel. The Sports Zone looks at some of baseball's top relievers.
Relief Pitchers - The Art of the Close
The job of a closer in baseball is to finish off games and shutdown late inning rallies when his team has the lead. Closers will usually only pitch one or two innings but they are often required to pitch in pressure situations where the score is close and the tying run is on base. A good closing relief pitcher has strong nerves and is able to get a lot of strikeouts and doesn't let batters get on base or put the ball in play. Every time a relief pitcher "closes" a tight game, he is given credit for a save.
Relief Pitchers - Baseball's Best
Mariano Rivera - The Yankees closer has been baseball's most dominating reliever over the past 10 years. With a cut fastball that darts in and out as it crosses the plate, Rivera has been almost unhittable since becoming the Yankees closer. His ability to close games in pressure situations is a big reason the Yankees have won four World Series titles since 1996.
Eric Gagne - Eric Gagne has been one of baseball's most dominant relief pitchers over the past three seasons. Gagne won the Cy Young Award as the National League's top pitcher in 2003, after saving 55 games for the Dodgers. Gagne is a force on the mound who intimidates hitters with both his frightening appearance and a fastball that's close to 100 miles per hour.
Chad Cordero - The slightly pudgy and dorky looking Cordero has emerged as the National League's most consistent closers in 2005. He doesn't have the most dominating fastball but the Washington Nationals' reliever has pinpoint accuracy and a good curveball which keeps hitters off base in crucial situations.
Relief Pitchers Records
Lee Smith saved 478 games with 8 different teams during his major league career.
The record for most saves in a season is held by Bobby Thigpen who saved 57 games for the Chicago White Sox in 1990.
Eric Gagne saved a record 84 straight games for the LA Dodgers between 2003 and 2004.