Street focused amid ninth-inning dramas

Street focused amid ninth-inning dramas

Street focused amid ninth-inning dramas
NEW YORK -- Save opportunities for Rockies closer Huston Street can be far more exciting than the team's fans are seeking. But they're also pleasing.

With 36 hits against in 35 2/3 innings -- including seven home runs, which is already tied for his high for a full season -- Street has kept the drama in the ninth inning. But even with all that, he has been successful enough to have a legitimate chance to be named to the National League squad for the All-Star Game.

Street, who is battling minor right groin soreness and was unavailable on Saturday, entered Sunday's game against the Yankees tied with the Giants' Brian Wilson for the Major League lead in saves with 23, and was tied for the lead with nine this month. Even with all the hits and the homers, he has blown just two saves this season and none of his last nine opportunities.

In those crazy ninth innings, one heart isn't beating any faster than usual: Street's.

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"People get nervous when they don't have control," Street said. "Come talk to me in the sixth, seventh, eighth inning. It's probably a totally different mindset. I'm on edge the whole time.

"All of a sudden, the phone rings, I'm in the game. The ball's in your hand. It all quiets down. Now it's up to you. It's what I talk about when I say 'the process.' When you focus on the results or the consequences, there is such a thing as pressure. There is such a thing as a big situation. But when you focus on making this pitch, this one pitch, not remembering the last pitch that you threw, and you're in the moment and not thinking about the pitch after that, it's very easy to do."

Not all of Street's outings are thrillers. Last Monday, he needed just five pitches to end a wild 8-7 victory over the Indians. But on Tuesday, the tying run reached third before Street struck out the Indians' Austin Kearns, and on Friday night, the tying run came to the plate in a 4-2 victory over the Yankees.

But Street hasn't given up a home run since May 26, to the D-backs' Kelly Johnson in a non-save situation. That fact reduces the rate of Rockies manager Jim Tracy's heartbeat a few notches.

"Let's put it this way: when his slider is the way he wants it to be, he's going to strike some people out, but from the standpoint of saying, 'This one's automatic, that one's automatic,' no," Tracy said. "He has to be a pitch-maker. Because of his capability of being a pitch-maker, he does want to pitch to contact and the ball's going to be in play. So the quality of the pitch has to be there, or he's going to pay for it.

"But you don't sit in here in the dugout when you bring your closer in ... I don't sit here and feel as though he's going to punch the side out. We've got to make a couple of plays, he's got to keep the ball off the barrel of the bat and we've got to get them out. I think that's why sometimes people crawl under the bed, because sometimes it doesn't miss it by much."

Street said after his games are complete, he can turn off the machine-like approach.

"After the fact, yeah, there becomes emotion, sometimes positive, sometimes negative," Street said. "But in that moment, there is no emotion. When everybody else is up cheering and screaming, it's pretty quiet out there for me."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.