Somewhere on his alpaca farm in Charlottesville, Va. former Brave Billy Wagner is saying he knew there’d be days like this for Craig Kimbrel.
The Braves young closer is experiencing some of his first major league bumps in the road since taking over for Wagner. He blew his second save in his past four chances Friday night in an eventual 5-3 loss to the Cardinals.
In those two outings, Kimbrel committed the cardinal sin of allowing the leadoff man aboard – he put Jamey Carroll on with a leadoff walk April 21 in Los Angeles and Yadier Molina on with a leadoff single on Friday night.
Carroll took second on a wild pitch and scored on a single. Molina took third on a hit-and-run and scored on a sacrifice fly.
“Got to keep the leadoff runner off base, get that first out,” Kimbrel said. “It’s big.”
Kimbrel has been walking the fine line of not trying to walk the first hitter, and not trying to give him anything to hit either. After 32 appearances in the majors now – including 21 last year during four call-ups – veteran Chipper Jones thinks hitters are adjusting to him and come up looking for the fastball early in counts.
“They know he’s predominantly fastball and you’re seeing guys jump on it,” Jones said. “They know he’s going to be around the strike zone. He’s got to make the adjustment. He’s got to be able to keep guys off-balance (with sliders) because major league hitters can time a jet plane.”
Kimbrel has been a closer throughout his professional career, but he doesn’t have the experience of many blown saves to draw on; he blew only four saves in 55 chances in the minor leagues (three in Triple-A Gwinnett last year and one in rookie ball in Danville in 2008).
“I know it’s part of the game,” Kimbrel said Saturday morning. “I’m still not happy about it. I’m never going to be happy when I’m not successful. I know there’s always today and I can go out and do my job today.”