OK, so Craig Kimbrel isn’t perfect.
His unbelievable dominance for most of the past two months might have led some of you to believe that he was untouchable, perhaps invincible.
Actually, come to think of it, Kimbrel had been nearly untouchable for most of that time.
Kimbrel was charged with protecting a tie game when he entered the ninth inning of the Braves’ game against the Diamondbacks on Thursday night at Turner Field.
When he left, the Diamondbacks led 3-2, a margin that turned into a victory when the Braves feebly went down in the bottom of the ninth.
Kimbrel hadn’t allowed a run since May 4. He hadn’t given up a home run since Sept. 19, 2011. Those two streaks were toppled on one swing of Chris Young’s bat.
The previously untouchable Kimbrel was touched for a home run when Young sent a 97-mph fastball in the opposite direction. The ball landed several rows up in the left-center field stands, ending Kimbrel’s scoreless streak at 17 games and denting the Braves’ chances at sweeping the Diamondbacks.
One pitch in the wrong location put to halt to that.
“I missed a spot,” Kimbrel said. “We were trying to go down and away and he’s a good high-ball hitter. I threw it right into his wheelhouse and he got the barrel on it and it went out.”
Forgive Kimbrel. Everybody is entitled to a mistake every now and then.
Kimbrel has walked the straight and narrow for so long that he was bound to give up a run some time. But Kimbrel had an incredible streak, one that has shown the league that his 2011 NL Rookie of the Year award was not a fluke.
Think about this: Kimbrel had given up only three hits and two walks in 17 23 innings including the last out on May 4 and the first out of the ninth on Thursday — before Young’s home run. He struck out 28 batters during that span and had lowered his ERA from 3.27 to 1.29 entering the game. Even with Young’s blast, Kimbrel’s ERA is at 1.55. BTW, he also leads the NL with 22 saves (in 23 opportunities).
“You never want to give up any runs, especially in a situation like that,” Kimbrel said. “All I can do is come back in tomorrow and go right back at it.”
Outstanding closers like Kimbrel have short memories. They have an amazing ability to forget the bad things and dwell on the good and continue doing what they do best.
Kimbrel has already shown that he can overcome poor pitches and purge pitiful performances. He’s pretty much forgotten most of last September, when he blew three saves, including the one on the last day of the season.
“It’s going to happen. I’m sure Craig’s going to be fine for the rest of the season,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “If you’re going to give it up, make it a mistake over the plate, and he hit it out of the ballpark, and you tip your hat and you go on.”
The last home run Kimbrel gave up had come in that fateful month. He had a tough time remembering who hit it.
“Lucas Duda?” he asked when questioned about it.
No, but close.
The Mets’ Duda hit one off him on Sept. 18, 2011. The next night, the Marlins’ Omar Infante hit a game-winning, two-run home run off Kimbrel. That had been it until Thursday.
“It happens. It’s part of the game,” Kimbrel said. “It sucks that we lost, but there’s nothing I can do about it, or we can do about it right now.
“All I can do is come back tomorrow and start over.”
I have a feeling that he’ll do exactly that.