Izzy now Cards all-time saves leader

Izzy now Cards all-time saves leader

PITTSBURGH -- On the night he broke the Cardinals' career saves record, Jason Isringhausen wasn't the biggest story. And that was just fine by Isringhausen.

The right-hander racked up his 161st save in a St. Louis uniform on Tuesday night, passing Lee Smith for the most by anyone ever to wear the "birds on the bat." It came on a night when Chris Carpenter simply dominated the Pirates, striking out a career-high 13. And a night when Scott Rolen collected four more base hits and took over the National League lead in batting average.

For Isringhausen, who accepts the spotlight on a bad night but never seeks it on a good one, it was appropriate. With the record in hand, Isringhausen even ducked the traditional beer shower -- sneaking into the clubhouse by a back entrance while his teammates waited to douse him in cold Anheuser-Busch products.

"He just made the best move in the clubhouse I have ever seen in all my years managing," said manager Tony La Russa. "He was waiting to get showered, and they were all grouped around, and he came in the back door.

"The greatest move I've ever seen. It was brilliant. He outsmarted the whole team."

He was eventually, um, honored, but not before having a little fun with his teammates. And more than a dozen cold cans still sat on a clubhouse table afterward, suggesting that perhaps Isringhausen didn't get the full force.

"He said, 'Who are you guys all waiting for?'" explained Carpenter. "Everybody was waiting. We had towels out on the ground."

Which is not to say he doesn't appreciate his place in the franchise's history.

Cardinals career saves leaders
1.Jason Isringhausen161
2.Lee Smith160
3.Todd Worrell129
4.Bruce Sutter127
5.Dennis Eckersley66
6.Lindy McDaniel64
7.Joe Hoerner60
Al Brazle60
9.Al Hrabosky59
10.Dave Veres48

"To be mentioned with Lee Smith, Bruce Sutter, Todd Worrell, that's pretty special," he said. "It's pretty special company. It's pretty special to be with the team I grew up with, grew up watching, grew up idolizing everybody."

It was a mostly good news, and a little bad news night for Isringhausen. He did surrender a run, but some indifferent defense behind him might well have cost him. He struck out two and didn't issue a walk, giving him three straight games without a free pass for the first time all year.

"I'm going to work to contact," he said. "I'm going to get strike one, no matter what I have to do. I'm just really conscious of throwing strikes. It's still hard to hit a baseball, as we all know. So strike one is the most important pitch for me. Once I get strike one, it opens up everything."

It's been a rocky year at times for Isringhausen, but through the struggles he leads the National League in saves. Tuesday marked his third quality outing in a row. It appears that the three-day mental health break he received did him a world of good.

He's back to being a three-pitch closer, firing hard four-seam fastballs and curveballs to go with his trademark cutter. The fastball in particular has been critical.

When he uses his fastball enough, his velocity is good enough that it really sends a message to the hitter that they can't sit up there and sit on his cutter," said pitching coach Dave Duncan.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.