Hanrahan shutting door on consistent basis

Hanrahan shutting door on consistent basis

PITTSBURGH -- Joel Hanrahan does not lead the Majors in saves -- Huston Street and Brian Wilson share that distinction with 23 apiece entering Sunday -- but it's hard to argue that there is currently a better closer than the one that comes out of PNC Park's bullpen to the sound of Slipknot's "Before I Forget."

Hanrahan nailed down save No. 22 on Saturday and remains the only National League closer to have more than five saves and not a single blown opportunity. That run is mighty impressive, especially given Hanrahan's lack of sustained success in the ninth-inning role before this season.

"It's been as good a run as I've seen in a very long time," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The one guy he does remind me of that I faced a few times is Goose Gossage. He's a big-body guy out there. He's raring back and letting it eat. If your foot is not down by the time he grunts, you're going to be late."

Hanrahan, who is 268 saves shy of Gossage's 310, laughed off the comparison.

"You need to go check [Hurdle's] pulse in there," said Hanrahan, who is expected to receive an invitation to the All-Star Game when rosters are announced next Sunday. "That's obviously a huge comparison. I'm just being aggressive. I've got a big body, so I'm using it."

Hanrahan has built himself into one of the game's most feared closers behind a nasty fastball-slider combination. His fastball, which sits consistently in the upper 90s, has been so tough to catch up to that he hasn't even needed the slider at times this year. On Saturday, he stuck with the fastball for 23 straight pitches before ending the game with the slider.

Hanrahan had not allowed a baserunner in eight straight save opportunities until Dustin Pedroia knocked a two-out double on Saturday. The big righty has allowed just two runs in his 22 save chances.

"We feel very confident with the game on the line and Joel Hanrahan with the ball in his hand," second baseman Neil Walker said.