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There are a lot of terms in baseball that are confusing, simply because of the nature of the game. In baseball, so many things can happen that lead to so many other things happening. One of the terms most often asked about is a blown save.  If you follow any of the plays at MLBBaseballFreePicks.com, you know losing a bet like this can be really taxing to the mental state.

A blown save is not a good thing for the team on defense. It happens when the relief pitcher starts the inning with his team ahead but allows the tying run to score. For example, with the Cubs leading 2-1, the Cubs reliever may replace the starting pitcher when a Pirates runner is on third. If that runner scores, the Cubs starting pitcher is charged with the run, but the reliever is charged with a blown save.

To get this unfortunate distinction, the pitcher must be in a blown save situation. He can’t be the game’s starter, he has to pitch a minimum third of an inning, and he has to finish the game for his team. He also has to pitch an inning with his team leading by 3 runs or less or be brought in with the tying run on base, at bat or on-deck. Whew, did you get that?! There also used to be a rule that he had to pitch 3 innings, but with the various relievers, middle relievers and closers, that’s fallen by the wayside.

All is not lost after a blown save, however. The Cubs may score more runs, and the reliever may hold the Pirates scoreless for the rest of the game. Then, depending on various circumstances, the starter may get the win, or, in some cases, the reliever charged with the blown save may actually get the win. This usually happens when the starting pitcher goes out early, and, among multiple relievers, one is determined to be the most effective. If that’s the pitcher with the blown save, he’ll get the win.

The blown save stat was introduced in 1988. Its purpose is to evaluate relievers, and especially closers, whose job is to maintain the team’s lead through the final innings. Relievers and closers are judged effective by saves and not so effective by blown saves. But some save situations are more challenging than others; for example, a 1-run lead with runners on in the 7th is more precarious than a 3-run lead with bases empty in the 9th. So some people want to use a different stat called a meltdown, which would include losses caused by pitchers in non-save situations as well. For now, though, the blown save is the stat of choice.

What was the most famous or infamous blown save ever? It was probably the one that cost the Yankees the World Series in 2001. In Game 7, with the series tied 3-3, the Yankees were ahead 2-1 going into the eighth. What’s more, formidable closer Mariano Rivera was on the mound, so it looked like New York had the game well in hand; Rivera had 23 consecutive postseason saves. But in the ninth, Rivera gave up the tying run, then loaded the bases, and, after that, outfielder Luis Gonzales hit a walkoff bloop single to win the game for Arizona 3-2. With class, however, Rivera said, “I think it was the best World Series we ever played in.”

So a blown save is just one of the complexities of baseball that make it challenging and also fun. It’s part of the duel between pitcher and hitter. And, after all, the flip side of a blown save is some exciting offense.