The one piece to this bullpen the Red Sox were supposed to feel good about was their closer. That wasn’t the case in the ALDS.
Craig Kimbrel wasn’t the lights-out pitcher we’ve trusted to lock down the ninth inning. While he managed a pair of saves against the Yankees, both appearances were shaky.
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Kimbrel completed a four-out save in Game 1 with three strikeouts but not without coughing up a solo home run to Aaron Judge. That cut Boston’s lead to one, turning what appeared to be an early route into a nail-biter.
Game 4 saw Kimbrel come dangerously close to a meltdown that would have evened the series. Normally, it’s Kimbrel who is the intimidating presence with his pterodactyl stance and blazing fastball. This time, he was the one who looked shook.
Kimbrel couldn’t find control of his breaking ball, walking a pair of batters and allowing a base hit to load the bases with one out. He’s lucky that Giancarlo Stanton did him a favor by chasing a curve well out of reach for strike three for that first out. A hit by pitch pushed in a run, followed by a sac fly to bring the Yankees within a run. New York had the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on first while Boston was on the verge of a panic attack.
It took a great play by Nunez and Steve Pearce stretching out as far as he could while keeping his foot on the bag to end the game. Kimbrel escaped the jam but not without forcing us to question how much we can trust him.