Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel has had a rough go of it lately. Heading into his Saturday appearance against the NL East-leading Cardinals, he had already tied his career-high for home runs given up in a season with seven. While that might not sound too bad, it’s important to keep in mind that he accomplished this feat in nearly 43 fewer innings than the last time he did it, as Christopher Kamka of NBC Sports Chicago pointed out.
But Joe Maddon was feeling confident about how things had been going for his team throughout Saturday’s back-and-forth game with St. Louis, so he decided to give his struggling righty a chance with Chicago up one run in the top of the ninth. All it took for that confidence to erode was two pitches, which was also the exact amount of time it took for the Cubs’ lead to erode.
Cardinals closer Carlos Martínez was able to do the kind of job that Kimbrel couldn’t and closed out his team’s 9-8 win. The loss has put Chicago’s postseason hopes in quite a deep hole. Not only does the team sit six games behind St. Louis in the division—a cause that’s pretty much all but lost, barring an incredible run—it also has dropped them to three games behind the Brewers for the second National League Wild Card spot.
“Here we are. We’ve got a battle. And I helped put us in that situation,” Kimbrel said after the game. “Today was disappointing. I was pumped out there. I was excited. I felt like I had good stuff. And then, right there off the bat with two home runs. Frustrating.”
As you might have realized, Kimbrel now sits with nine home runs given up on the season, a new career high. To add some perspective on just how bad this is, Kimbrel wasn’t signed until early June, had started his Cubs tenure in the minors and even had a stint on the IL. However, the pitcher has been able to overcome all of that to put together a year where he gives up a dinger at least once every two innings. Oh, and he’s also sitting on a 6.53 ERA. All around great stuff.
Who could have guessed that being roasted by an army of little leaguers would turn out to be a high point in his season?