ST. PETERSBURG -- Alex Colome stood perched atop the mound. His foot wasn't on the rubber, and he wasn't quite ready to make the biggest pitch of the ballgame. The big right-handed closer took a deep breath, as he was potentially a pitch from ending the game -- and potentially a pitch from giving up the lead.
At that moment, he'd followed through on each of his 17 save opportunities, every one Tampa Bay's had all season. But the bases were loaded, there was one out and an 0-2 count on Colby Rasmus trying to erase the Astros' one-run deficit.
"We're pretty confident when he's on the mound," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "He's gonna be able to calm the situation and make some big pitches and get some big outs for us."
Colome struck Rasmus out on the next pitch. Then he got Evan Gattis to ground out to short on a too-close-for-comfort play at first. Just like that, Colome was 18-for-18 in saves, extending a Rays record to begin the year. Tampa Bay had defeated Houston, 4-3, to win its sixth game in seven tries. In each of those games, Colome has recorded the save.
His ERA is 0.96. In save opportunities, he hasn't allowed a run.
"I try to get as many saves as I can do," Colome said. "I try to do the best job I can for the team, for my future too."
When Colome came in for a save opportunity on Wednesday, he loaded the bases with nobody out. Then he struck out Paul Goldschmidt and ended the game with a double play. On Friday, he escaped the jam when Brad Miller made a throw in the dirt that Steve Pearce did a nice job to scoop before Gattis could get to first.
Cash said he hasn't seen a difference in Colome when he gets into hairy save situations. He's the same guy, regardless of circumstance. But in situations that have called for a gut-check, Colome has risen to the occasion.
"You're thinking, take the ball, throw down," Colome said. "Be strong on the mound."
Sam Blum is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.