The save can be an almost useless statistic. It is hardly an accomplishment for a pitcher to enter the game in the ninth inning with a three-run lead and not give up three runs.
Quite often, relievers working in the seventh or eighth inning record tougher outs that actually save a victory.
That was not the case for Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey on Wednesday.
The Oakland Athletics scored a run in the seventh inning and another in the eighth. They trailed the Red Sox by one run and had their best hitters coming up.
Bailey struck out the side, locking up a 6-5 victory.
“That,” pitching coach Juan Nieves said, “was a man’s save.”
With Joel Hanrahan on the disabled list, Bailey has converted five of six save chances for the Red Sox. The 14-7 Sox are 10-2 in the games he has appeared in.
Over 11.1 innings, Bailey has given up two runs on five hits and struck out 20.
“When you look at him, he looks like he’s pitching with his hair on fire,” manager John Farrell said. “But he’s out there with a definite plan and he’s able to execute it.”
Bailey’s fastball was 94-96 m.p.h. He also threw seven cutters. Three of them produced swinging strikes that finished off John Jaso, Seth Smith, and Jed Lowrie.
“When you can throw something else for a strike, especially late in the count, they can’t be sitting fastball,” Bailey said.
When Hanrahan returns, perhaps early next week, Bailey is expected to return to the eighth inning.
“When Joel is ready, he’ll be back closing I’m sure,” Nieves said. “But we’ve been privileged to have Andrew. He’s a great closer.”
Bailey was diplomatic about the idea of losing a job he has done so well.
“It’s not my decision to make,” he said. “My goal was to stay healthy and prove that I could pitch. I think I’ve proven that I can pitch. We’ll see what happens when he comes back.
“We’re all on the same page in terms of where we want to take this team. Whatever roles are, roles are.”
But there is no denying Bailey enjoys closing. Since this homestand started, he has entered games to “I’m Shipping Up To Boston,” by Dropkick Murphys. That’s the song former Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon came out to.
Bailey said it’s a tribute to the people in Boston following the Marathon bombings
“We talked about it the first game back here. We decided it’s a Boston song and was a staple for this city for such a long time and the fans really enjoy it,” Bailey said. “It gets them pumped up, that’s what it’s all about.”
Bailey also is growing a scruffy beard, another hallmark for closers. Add it up and it’s working.
“He’s done an outstanding job of making a pitch in some key spots,” Farrell said.
See the Globe on Thursday for more on Bailey and the Sox.