Craig Kimbrel has been largely unhittable this season – his .119 opponents’ batting average leads all major-league relievers – but he’s almost untouchable of late.
He has 67 strikeouts in 40 innings and has recorded 59 of his past 102 outs via whiff. Entering Sunday he was third in strikeouts among National League relievers behind Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (96) and Dodger Kenley Jansen (72).
Kimbrel said having better command has helped him not only keep his walks down but see the strikeout total go up.
“The strikeouts are just coming with getting ahead of hitters and throwing it a little bit out of the zone where they can’t hit it,” Kimbrel said.
He struck out 127 of the 306 batters he faced last year (42 percent) and led all major league relievers in strikeouts. But Kimbrel said he’s felt like he’s been in even better command of his pitches this season.
“I’ve been able to determine if I’m going to throw it at the bottom of the zone or at the top of the zone or even out of the zone,” Kimbrel said. “Of course there are pitches where I’m way out for the most part, but for the most part, I’ve been able to control my pitches. Not just say ‘I’m going to throw in this one spot,’ but ‘If I miss I’m not going to miss here, I’m going to miss here.’”
Left fielder Evan Gattis is expecting to return from the disabled list early this week in Double-A Mississippi, manager Fredi Gonzalez said. Gattis impressed this spring in major league camp and then continued to do so hitting 13 home runs in 37 games combined for Single-A Lynchburg and Double-A Mississippi. He’s been out since mid-May with a wrist injury.