Craig Kimbrel’s elite-ness is finally showing with the Phillies.
It was a rough start for Kimbrel this season after letting up three runs through a third of an inning in his debut with the Phillies. Through his first four appearances in relief, Kimbrel’s ERA was above 10 runs. From April 11th until the end of April, Kimbrel threw 7.2 scoreless innings while only allowing 3 hits and a walk, along with 13 strikeouts. He lowered his ERA to 4.09.
But then April flowers brought May showers.
Kimbrel had a bad start to May after allowing six runs through a combined inning of work in the Phillies’ four-game sweep against the Dodgers, his former team from last season.
Those two outings were not at all typical of the award-winning 8x All-Star and arguably the best closer of the 2010s. His ERA ballooned back up to 8.25.
Manager Rob Thomson gave Kimbrel six days of rest after one of those appearances to perhaps clear the reliever’s head. And it seems to have done wonders for him. Since May 9th, Kimbrel has tossed eight innings of two-run ball with four saves and two credited wins added to his stat sheet while out 15 batters through eight innings.
Not to mention his recent saves have come with milestones. After securing his 399th save against the Cubs (another one of his former teams), Kimbrel eyed history. Only 7 players in the MLB have reached the 400 career saves landmark. Yankees great Mariano Rivera is at the top of the saves chart with 652 of them, and Padres great Trevor Hoffman is below him with 601. The following five were all in the 400’s and Kimbrel looked to join them.
History was indeed made for Kimbrel and the league when he secured his 400th save on Friday against the Braves as the Phillies looked for vengeance in the second game of the series against their rivals.
Just like the Phillies, Kimbrel’s season has been filled with peaks and valleys. But for him, there have been more peaks. On the season, Kimbrel has an impressive 32:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio and leads the team with 7 saves. Jose Alvarado remains sidelined with an elbow injury, but when the hard-throwing lefty comes back, he and Kimbrel could be the one-two punch the Phillies bullpen needs to carry them to more victories.
Kimbrel is already on his 8th team in his career and still contains a remarkable 2.41 ERA and 0.99 WHIP with 1,130 total strikeouts through 708.1 combined innings.
With no reliever really stepping out yet for the Phillies, and Alvarado still does, Kimbrel currently stands as one of the Phillies’ most essential pieces on the roster.