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Pirates closer Hanrahan enjoys 20-20 vision

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Entering Wednesday night's games, Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan was tied with Atlanta's Craig Kimbrel, San Francisco's Brian Wilson and Florida's Leo Nunez with 20 saves. He trailed only Colorado's Huston Street, who has a National League-leading 22.

But it was the comparison to Goose Gossage by manager Clint Hurdle after the Pirates' 5-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles that made the maximum-velocity right-hander cringe with humility.

"Come on, Clint," Hanrahan said. "You need to go check his pulse in there. That's obviously a huge comparison. I'm just being aggressive. I've got a big body, so I'm using it."

It's working.

Hanrahan registered his 20th save in 20 opportunities yesterday in a run the likes of which Hurdle said he hasn't seen in a long time. Hanrahan entered the season with 20 saves for his entire major league career. His previous season high was nine, set in 2008 with the Washington Nationals.

He hasn't given up a run since June 4 against the Philadelphia Phillies, which happens to be the last time he gave up a hit. In his past eight appearances, Hanrahan has walked one, struck out seven and recorded six saves.

This year, Hanrahan is 0-1 with a 1.35 ERA and has given up just six runs — five earned — and 25 hits. The only homer he has allowed was a solo shot to Cincinnati's Jay Bruce on May 19.

"I don't know (where he ranks right now), but I've said before that one guy he does remind of me that I faced a few times is Goose Gossage," Hurdle said. "He's a big-bodied guy out there. ... If your foot's not down by the time he grunts, you're going to be late. And then he's got that funny pitch, the slider, that can make you take a funny swing. You've got to get ready to hit 97 (mph). And anything that's not 97, that's got sharp (movement) and some tilt, it's tough to square up."

Hanrahan isn't looking at his body of work this season, which could earn him a trip to the All-Star Game in Phoenix. He's preparing for each outing, and trying to end games as quickly as possible.

"I'm looking for opportunities to get out there, and when I do, try to make the most of it," he said.

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