He'd trade it for a playoff berth in a heartbeat, but Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels' most effective, most consistent and most reliable player in 2006, took home a nice little consolation prize Thursday night.
The 24-year-old closer nailed down the last three outs of the Angels' 2-0 victory over Oakland for his 46th save, tying Bryan Harvey's franchise record, set in 1991.
"It's a real special moment for me," Rodriguez said. "In my second year as the full-time closer, to get the record ... hopefully over the next three games I'll get an opportunity to break it."
Rodriguez is 2-3 with a 1.75 earned-run average in 68 appearances, and he leads the major leagues in saves. He has given up three earned runs in 47 2/3 innings of his last 47 games for an 0.57 ERA.
"Frankie has had an unbelievable year," said pitcher John Lackey, who gave up four hits and had a career-high 11 strikeouts in eight shutout innings. "The way he's pitched this year, you can't ask any more of a closer. It doesn't surprise me that he got the record."
With Thursday's win, in which he did not walk a batter, Lackey closed the season with a 13-11 record and 3.56 ERA and improved to 9-2 with a 2.89 ERA against the A's. He out-dueled Oakland ace Barry Zito, who gave up one run in six innings of a tuneup for Tuesday's playoff start.
The Angels scored in the sixth inning on Juan Rivera's RBI single and in the seventh on Mike Napoli's solo home run.
Retiring outfielder Tim Salmon has spoken to Tony Reagins, the Angels' director of player development, about coming to spring training for a week as a guest instructor and about periodically dropping in on the team during the season.
But he has no intention of returning to the game as a full-time coach, at least not any time soon. Nor does the father of four have any interest in a broadcast job.
"The travel would be too much," said Salmon, who made his retirement official at a news conference Thursday. "Guys say you should give yourself a year to get away from the game, to go through the mourning process.
"The toughest thing about this game is being away from my family. It's been 17 years, including the minor leagues, that they've had to pack up and move twice a year. They've done that for me, and I think it's time for me to go back home and be there for them."
What will Salmon miss most about the game? "The camaraderie with the guys, the close relationships you build when you're trying to reach a common goal," he said.
What will he miss the least? "The sleepless nights when you can't find your swing," he said. "I've had a lot of those. I guess I'll sleep more soundly now."
Salmon wasn't the only Angel closing in on a milestone Thursday. Vladimir Guerrero was one hit away from 200, so Manager Mike Scioscia, to the surprise of some media members, started the slugger at designated hitter over Salmon, the sentimental favorite who is one home run away from 300 for his career.
Those clamoring for Salmon didn't have to wait long. Guerrero lined the first pitch he saw from Zito in the first inning to center field for a single and was promptly replaced by Salmon, who struck out and walked twice in three plate appearances.
Guerrero, who had a career-high 206 hits in 2004, became the first player in Angels history with two seasons of 200 hits. Only three other Angels -- Darin Erstad (240 hits in 2000), Alex Johnson (202 in 1970) and Garret Anderson (201 in 2003) -- have reached the 200-hit mark.
Oakland outfielder and noted hothead Milton Bradley was ejected in the fifth inning Thursday night for arguing a called third strike ... to teammate Bobby Kielty.... Rivera threw out Mark Kotsay attempting to stretch a single into a double in the sixth inning, giving the Angels right fielder his league-leading 13th outfield assist.... Dustin Moseley will start the season finale Sunday in place of Kelvim Escobar, who has battled elbow and knee problems.