Familia becomes 1st Dominican to reach 50 saves

Familia becomes 1st Dominican to reach 50 saves

MIAMI -- Whenever Jeurys Familia notches a new saves milestone, Mets manager Terry Collins likes to tell the story of his ascension to the closer's role. Collins tells the tale as if it happened decades ago. In reality, it has been 17 months.

Jenrry Mejia, the Mets' Opening Day closer last year, sustained an injury in the first game and was later suspended. Needing a ninth-inning man and lacking options, Collins turned to Familia -- a then-25-year-old with a power sinker but only a brief track record of success.

Few have grabbed their opportunities with as much conviction as Familia, who on Wednesday became the first Dominican-born reliever to save 50 games in a season, passing Jose Valverde (2011) and Francisco Cordero (2004). 

Closing out the Mets' 5-2 win over the Marlins, Familia extended his franchise record for saves in a season, becoming the 13th Major Leaguer to collect 50 saves.

"I go back to last year when we lost Mejia. I just turned to a kid who had good stuff and said, 'Do you think you can close?'" Collins said. "And you look up now, he's got, what? Ninety-three saves in two years? I can't tell you what a great job he's done and how much he's meant to us."

Familia on earning 50th save

Since the start of last season, no one has more saves than Familia, though that's hardly the only statistic that pops off his baseball card. Familia also owns a 2.23 ERA during that stretch, third among all pitchers -- starters or relievers -- with at least 150 innings. He has appeared in 76 games in three straight seasons, with a chance to topple that mark this weekend. He has struck out more than a batter per inning, and this season has allowed just one homer.

"The job he's done in two years is remarkable," Collins said.

About the only blemish on Familia's two-year run occurred last October, when the Mets' team defense struggled behind him when he was unable to finish off three World Series saves. It's a stain on Familia's personal record that he aims to wash away next month, with a postseason berth looking increasingly likely for the Mets, who maintained their position as the top National League Wild Card.

"I'm impressed with what I've been doing individually so far," Familia said. "But at the same time, I'm just trying to go out there and give it the best I can. I didn't say when the season started that I was going to save 50. No, I'm just trying to go out there and make sure to have fun and help the team any way I can for a win."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.