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Balfour honored to join Eck for saves record

Balfour honored to join Eck for saves record

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KANSAS CITY -- Oakland closer Grant Balfour doesn't like talking about the record he's quietly been chasing all season, mostly because it's not his focus. But he will oblige in conversation about the Hall of Famer who owns it.

Well, the Hall of Famer who shares it, that is.

Balfour owns an equal part of it now, having matched Dennis Eckersley's 21-year-old record of 40 consecutive saves on Friday in the A's 6-3 win over the Royals. It's longest active streak in the Majors.

Of the 40 saves, 22 have come this season, and Balfour represents the only Major League closer without a blown save.

"Phenomenal," said manager Bob Melvin, after Balfour recorded two outs, stranding two in Friday's win. "Like him, I don't like to talk about it a whole lot. It's pretty phenomenal. That's quite the pitcher that he just tied."

"Obviously the guy has had a great career," Balfour said of Eckersley. "I can only speak highly of him, and if I can have half the career he had, you gotta walk away being a happy man. For what he did for the game, I always look up and see his name and number out there every day when I take the mound at home, and to know that that's up there, by all those greats ... I don't know what else to say."

Balfour's work speaks for itself. The 35-year-old righty, whose last blown save came on April 29, 2012, has not allowed a run in 14 of his last 15 games and 25 of his past 27. He has a 1.82 ERA on the season, to go along with a 1.10 WHIP and .198 opponents' average against him.

Perhaps what's most remarkable about Balfour's stretch is that, in preserving those 40 saves, 17 have involved one-run leads. Eckersley only had to deal with such a situation six times during his run.

But that's just Balfour doing his job, he'll say. The accolades -- he's a likely All-Star participant this year -- and records, like the one he reached Friday, that come with it are just extra.

"It's an accomplishment," he said, "but I don't like to look at it too much. I'm superstitious, obviously, but I never knew about this, and it's not something I set out to do. It just happened. I've still got a lot of work to do. I'm going out there playing for a win every night. That's my main focus, just trying to make pitches."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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