Most fans know that pitchers get a save for coming into a game and closing out the ninth inning with a lead of three runs or less. That’s what the role of closer has become, but there are a few different ways to pick up a save.
Rule 10.19 tells us everything there is to know about saves. To earn a save a pitcher must do four things:
- His team must win the game
- He must be the final pitcher for his team
- He cannot be the winning pitcher
- He must get at least one out
Once those are covered, he must do one of the three following things:
One: Enter the game with a lead of no more than three runs and pitch at least one inning.
This is the traditional way to get a save; slim lead, one inning. Save.
Two: Enter the game with the potential tying run on base, at bat, or on deck.
There are a few situations that could fall under this criterion. Even if his team is up by five runs with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, if a pitcher enters the game when the other team has the bases loaded, throws one pitch and gets that out, he has earned the save.
Three: Pitch for at least three innings.
This one is pretty simple. It doesn’t matter if you’re winning 20-0 in the 7th inning, if a pitcher comes in and gives up 19 runs in the last three innings he has earned that save!
As long as the pitcher fulfills those first four criteria, he can fulfill one, two, or all three of the latter ones and the save is his.
Nowhere does is it required that a pitcher has to throw a pitch to get the save. Come into the game with a runner on first, leading by two runs and pick that runner off for the final out and you get the save. Similarly, there’s no requirement for a pitcher to throw a pitch to get the win. Hypothetically, two pitchers on the same team could earn the win and the save in the same game, even if neither throw a pitch.