After Craig Kimbrel‘s blown save and loss on Tuesday night, it would have been understandable if Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose to wait for a bigger lead before sending Kimbrel back out to the mound. After all, Tuesday was the fourth time Kimbrel had been handed a one-run lead to protect, and it was the fourth time he blew that lead.
Roberts, though, was undeterred, according to Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
“If we have a one-run lead tonight, he’s pitching,” Roberts said.
The baseball gods heard and must have said, “Hold my beer.”
It looked like Kimbrel would have a two-run lead to protect, with the Dodgers leading 2-0 and the eighth inning being pitched by Caleb Ferguson, who hadn’t allowed a run all season. But Ferguson had his first blemish and the Dodgers were unable to capitalize on a two-out double by Chris Taylor in the top of the ninth, so Roberts got the chance to put his money where his mouth was.
Initially, it looked like it might work out fantastically well. Kimbrel got the first two hitters, Rowdy Tellez and Hunter Renfroe, into two-strike counts before each grounded out. But the game had to get interesting for the Dodgers, because this is the Craig Kimbrel Experience. Keston Hiura beat the shift with a base hit to right field, and Mike Brosseau worked a seven-pitch walk to put the tying and winning runs on base. But Luis Urias hit an 0-1 pitch on one hop to third base, where Max Muncy fielded it and stepped on the bag to end the game and give Kimbrel his first one-run save of the season.
Asked if he was aware that he hadn’t successfully closed out a one-run game this season, Kimbrel said, “I am now. I guess we put that to rest tonight. Hopefully, the rest are all one run and I can get them done.”
Roberts, interestingly, seemed more willing to acknowledge some bumps after a game where Kimbrel ultimately got the job done than he had been after the previous night’s debacle.
“I thought tonight was fine,” Roberts said. “Obviously it got a little traffic there at the end, but I liked the fastball command tonight. I liked the breaking ball in-zone. We got a couple ground balls.
“There was a walk in there. But outside of that, I thought he threw the ball well.”
Kimbrel came close to acknowledging that his spot on the postseason roster isn’t guaranteed, mentioning his need to get things right before October, not just for himself but for everyone else.
“For a lot of reasons, I got to start throwing the ball better, getting the ball over the plate and showing I can dominate,” he said. “Not only for myself and feeling comfortable, but letting everybody else feel comfortable going into the playoffs.
“It’s definitely my goal for the rest of the year, get things right and get ready for the playoffs.”
There are 46 games left for Kimbrel to “get things right and get ready for the playoffs.” Wednesday night was a good start; maybe a couple clean innings are next.
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