BOSTON — The Red Sox signed Craig Kimbrel this offseason with the hope he’d deliver with the game on the line, and for the most part, he’s done that.
But the All-Star closer’s bigger issues have come when the stakes are lower.
Red Sox manager John Farrell sent Kimbrel to the mound in the ninth inning Tuesday with his team trailing the Texas Rangers by a run. Yet instead of holding down the fort, Kimbrel imploded, allowing a career-high four runs and failing to record an out as Boston stumbled to a 7-2 loss at Fenway Park.
Kimbrel’s ERA ballooned from 2.53 to 3.66 as a result, but that hides a more troubling statistic for the 28-year-old right-hander: 10 of the 13 runs he has allowed this season have come in non-save situations. By contrast, Kimbrel has a 1.45 ERA in 19 save opportunities.
Kimbrel’s non-save struggles have become more glaring over the last few weeks, as all of his last seven runs allowed have come when he entered with the Red Sox tied or trailing. Farrell admitted after Tuesday’s game he might reconsider using Kimbrel in such situations but said Boston’s stretched bullpen in part went into his decision to give the ball to his closer.
“The numbers bear it out — it’s been a difficult spot for him,” Farrell said. “But again, I go to him because he’s the freshest arm out there right now.”
Kimbrel hadn’t pitched since July 1 prior to Tuesday’s game, so giving him some action certainly is reasonable, especially after the Red Sox’s bullpen received a heavy workload over the weekend. But Farrell is well aware that his closer’s issues outside save situations might be more than just coincidence.
“I don’t know that you’d say it’s a fluke if you look at the few times that he’s come into that spot,” Farrell added. “But given how we are with the bullpen and given where we were in the lineup coming, that was the decision made.”
— The Red Sox turned a wild double play in the sixth inning that had a painful result for catcher Sandy Leon.
Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor broke from third to home while pitcher David Price threw to first base on a ground-out, and Hanley Ramirez fired the ball to Leon to nab Odor at the plate.
Leon made a great play to spin around and tag Odor, but Odor’s leg collided hard with the Red Sox catcher’s left arm.
Leon appeared shaken up on the play but remained in the game.
— Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski on Tuesday provided some insight into Boston’s plans ahead of Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, revealing the team will be “aggressive” as Aug. 1 approaches.
“We talk every day now,” Dombrowski said. “This is a time period where a lot of things happen. Calls have increased. You get into July, it’s amazing how much calls increase. They’ll continue to increase more so after the All-Star break and they’ll continue to pick up even more around the trading deadline.”
The Red Sox’s most obvious need is pitching, and Dombrowski said the team is considering all options.
“Can it come from within? Yes,” he added. “Can it come from outside? Yes. Can it come from a combination? Yes.”
— It was a bittersweet day for Kimbrel, who was named to his fifth All-Star Game before his rough appearance. In a bit of unfortunate foreshadowing, the Red Sox closer admitted he was “a little surprised” to get the nod this year despite his struggles.
“This year has had its ups and downs so far,” Kimbrel said. “But being selected and being able to go is a definite honor.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images