BOSTON — Craig Kimbrel’s last four outings have been shaky, but the Red Sox aren’t worried about their hard-throwing closer going into the postseason.
Kimbrel earned the 4-3 loss Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays after a leadoff walk to left fielder Michael Saunders ended with pinch-runner Dalton Pompey scoring the game-winning run in the ninth inning. Walks have been an issue for the 28-year-old reliever of late because of some mechanical issues, but his coaches are confident he can fix them.
“I think really the last three outings now, just getting a little out of posture with his upper body causing him to get rotational,” pitching coach Carl Willis said of Kimbrel. “The stuff’s still there, and like I said before, I want to say August 13 to September 24, he allowed one unearned run. He was very good and relatively efficient in being that good, so whether he’s trying to create a little bit of velocity right now, which he doesn’t need to do because he has plenty of life on the ball, that could be where that posture is getting a little bit top-heavy.”
The numbers Willis gave were spot-on, but in his last four outings beginning Sept. 24, Kimbrel has given up six earned runs and six walks. But he says he can turn it around like he did earlier in the season.
“Yeah, it’s nothing different,” Kimbrel said. “It’s the same — I think every pitcher kind of deals with something, a kind of a click they have to pay attention to, and it comes around, but I’ll get it squared away. You don’t have to worry about that.”
Red Sox manager John Farrell doesn’t envision this affecting Kimbrel’s playoff stock, either.
“Yes,” Farrell said when asked if he has confidence in Kimbrel. “And even in a tie game situation like tonight where the guys that are available, he’s the guy in that spot, and will continue to do so.”
Here are some more notes from Saturday’s loss.
— After the Cleveland Indians beat the Kansas City Royals 6-3 on Saturday, the Red Sox are in danger of losing home-field advantage in the American League Division Series. You can read in-depth on what the Red Sox have to do to secure more games at Fenway Park here.
— David Ortiz was replaced by pinch-runner Travis Shaw in the fifth inning despite the score being knotted at two at the time. Farrell said that decision was made after the designated hitter struggled to run out what ended up being a groundout to end the second inning.
“After he grounded out, obviously we know what he’s dealing with,” Farrell said. “And under the conditions tonight and the way he got down the line in that second at-bat, felt like three was enough here tonight.”
— Mookie Betts went 2-for-4 with two runs and a double and leads Major League Baseball with 67 multi-hit games and 359 total bases. The right fielder also leads the league with 113 hits at home, which is the most at Fenway Park in a single season since Nomar Garciaparra did it in 2003.
— Eduardo Rodriguez still shined at times despite a rough second inning. The lefty struck out nine to give him 29 K’s in his last three starts. He has struck out the side in five of his last eight innings.
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images