Braves closer Craig Kimbrel gets an adrenaline rush running in from the bullpen to save a game in April. So being called on to make a four-out save for only the third time in his career in a virtual must-win game in the division series against the Dodgers? He was hitting triple digits.
Kimbrel has averaged 96.4 mph on fastball this season, according to fansgraphs.com. Usually he’s reaching back to throw 99 mph when he needs it. But on Friday night, in his sixth ever postseason game, Kimbrel hit 100 mph on the Braves radar gun his second pitch of the night on Juan Uribe. Then he hit 101 on his third.
Kimbrel hit triple digits with his fastball eight times in his 25 pitches, to four of the five hitters he faced.
When asked after the game if the excitement from a Turner Field crowd of 48,966 gave him a few extra mph on his fastball, Kimbrel smiled and said: “I guess it did. The scoreboard said so.”
If anything, Kimbrel was having a little trouble harnessing it. He walked both A.J. Ellis and Andre Ethier in the ninth inning, but because catcher Gerald Laird threw out pinch runner Dee Gordon trying to steal second, he never had a runner reach scoring position.
“You always try to tell yourself to calm down,” Kimbrel said. “It’s a little bit easier said than done. I was able to make it through it tonight.”
A visit to the mound from pitching coach Roger McDowell settled him back down after his two-out walk to Ethier. Kimbrel then hit 100 mph twice in his first five pitches to Carl Crawford, but struck him out with your ho-hum 98 mph fastball.
“He was pretty special tonight,” Laird said. “I’m just glad he’s on our side, and we don’t have to face that because tonight he was electric. He had that 100 mph fastball going, and that curveball. You could tell he was a little bit amped, but once he settles down and gets it in the zone, he’s as tough as they come.”
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.