With Craig Kimbrel’s 37th save of the season Thursday night against the Giants, he moved just four away from breaking Neftali Feliz’s major league record for saves in a season by a rookie.
He’s got Feliz in his sights now and doesn’t mind saying it’s a goal.
“If I get that chance it’s good, it means we’re playing winning baseball,” Kimbrel said Friday afternoon. “I don’t see why I wouldn’t because we are winning. I don’t want to blow any saves so…”
Kimbrel has some confidence and rightly so. He hadn’t blown a save since June 8 in Florida, entering the weekend series with Arizona. Since then he had gone 19-for-19 in saves during a scoreless streak of 28 2/3 innings, the longest active streak by a pitcher in the majors.
During that streak, Kimbrel has walked only eight batters, compared to walking 15 in his first 32 innings this season. That’s been a big factor in his transition from a rookie pitcher with a penchant for wildness to a dominant force.
“It’s just understanding I don’t have to try to throw it past everybody every pitch,” Kimbrel said. “Just try to throw strikes.”
That comment drew a “hmph” from teammate Brandon Beachy, a few lockers down, for a closer who leads the majors with 96 strikeouts in relief. The rookie with the 98-99 mph fastball does blow past hitters. But Kimbrel said the key is not trying to get a swing and miss every pitch.
“You can’t strike a guy out unless you’ve got two strikes on him,” Kimbrel said. “It’s understanding you don’t have to throw the nasty curveball in the dirt 0-0.”