Jenks ties record on his terms
Closer wanted to have chance to do it at U.S. Cellular Field
CHICAGO -- During the sixth inning of Sunday's 6-0 White Sox loss to the Mariners, Bobby Jenks decided that if he was going to make history, he was going to do it on his own terms.
Jenks, who had retired an American League-record 38 hitters entering Sunday's game, answered pitching coach Don Cooper's call to the bullpen in the sixth inning. With starter John Danks long since out of the ballgame, the All-Star closer told Cooper if he was going to tie Jim Barr's all-time record of 41 straight set down in order, he wanted to do it at home before the Sox left for a six-game road trip on Monday, no matter what the score.
"I thought about it today," Cooper said. "I know Bobby pretty well, so I thought he'd like to do it here rather than have another day off and an off-day tomorrow and think about it more than he ought to.
"So we called down about the sixth and I asked him if he wanted an inning. 'Yes,' right away came out of his mouth. I went to [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and he was a little surprised. I said he wants the inning. I said, 'Listen, do you want to call him yourself?' So [Guillen] got on the phone and asked him and got the same answer."
When the ninth-inning did roll around, Guillen gave Jenks his shot at history, despite the 6-0 score. Jenks responded by getting Adam Jones, Jamie Burke and Yuniesky Betancourt in order to match Barr's all-time mark.
Jenks' streak spans 14 appearances, dating back to a July 17 appearance at Cleveland. Since that point, not a single baserunner has reached against the South Siders star closer.
Jenks refuses to speak to the media until the streak is over, but his coaches and teammates had plenty to say about the magnitude of the accomplishment.
"That's unbelievable," outfielder Jermaine Dye said. "Especially in this day and age, as much work as hitters put in. For a guy to go up there and do what he did today, it says a lot. We're all happy for him."
"For him to go almost 14 innings and not walk a guy, not hit a guy, or not have a guy make and error, or a wild pitch or anything, that is pretty amazing," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said.
The final three outs did not come without a little drama. Jones ripped a ball back up the middle that Jenks himself knocked out the air and fired to first. It was one of a number of nice defensive plays that Jenks has made to keep his streak alive over the last four weeks.
Burke also made life interesting for Jenks, hitting a sinking line drive into right field. Dye was forced to make a sliding catch for the second out of the inning.
"I don't worry about Jenks," Cooper said. "He's been through it all. Been in the World Series, in the playoffs, been closing for a couple of years. Closing anywhere is tough, closing in Chicago under a lot of scrutiny can be even harder. He handles everything that comes at him."
Betancourt went down, as most of the 41 have during Jenks streak -- quickly and quietly. The Seattle shortstop bounced a slow roller to Juan Uribe who made the play to seal the record. Jenks pumped his fist and hugged Pierzynski as the two headed back to the dugout. He came out for a curtain call as he celebrated with his teammates.
"I was nervous," Pierzynski said. "When he came in, I knew where he was. It wasn't quite the same as when [Mark] Buehlre had the no-hitter in the ninth, but it was close. You don't want to do something to allow him to not get a guy out and have the streak come to an end. It put a little pep in your step."
Jenks is the lone reliever among those at the top of the all-time list for most batters retired in order. Most at the top of the list own a perfect game and add on into their next start.
The most recent player to make a run at Barr's record was Randy Johnson, who retired 39 straight hitters in 2004.
Jenks next chance to move into sole possession of the top spot could come as soon as Tuesday, when the White Sox head to Oakland to take on the A's. Jenks has had a tough go of things against Oakland this season. He blew a save, allowing two runs and four hits in two-thirds of an inning on April 10 at McAfee Coliseum.
But no matter what happens for Jenks from here on out, he has etched his name in the record books with one of the most impressive individual feats realized by a closer.
"Bobby [isn't] afraid," Cooper said. "Bobby's a kid who came from a tougher road to get here. It's awfully nice to see a guy who did what he did in 2005 and 2006 to see what he's done in 2007. His life and career are in his hands now."
Alex Gyr is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.