Part of what makes Kimbrel dominant closer is damage control

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Part of what makes Kimbrel dominant closer is damage control

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Dave Tulis
Craig Kimbrel has led the NL is saves the last two seasons.

It’s rare to see Craig Kimbrel blow a save, or give up a run, like the one he allowed Saturday night against the Angels in the 10th inning of a tie ball game, but it’s even rarer to see him give up any more than that.

It might be a subtle difference to those outside the Braves clubhouse, but not to the team that more often than not – like Saturday night – still has a fighting chance to come back.

The Braves lost 11-6 in 13 innings to the Angels Saturday but were able to tie it in the bottom of the 10th inning down by a run, and keep on coming.

“The ballgame is not overwith,” Kimbrel said of his mentality in those situations. “I have to give the guys an opportunity, especially here at home, to go back out there and be able to still win the game.”

Only 10 times in his 259 career appearances has Kimbrel given up more than one run.

He’s shown that he can handle his emotions after a blown save, or perhaps simply to use them to his advantage. Kimbrel’s got a natural flush in his cheeks as it is, but when he gives up a run?

“I tell you what, those cheeks get red, you just watch out,” said Braves third baseman Chris Johnson. “You better hope that you’re not coming up that inning.”

Yes, Kimbrel acknowledges, he gets mad.

“I do,” Kimbrel said. “I get pretty mad any time I don’t do my job. But I try not to let it overwhelm me and just try to stay focused on what I’m doing. Sometimes (the emotion) can be negative. Sometimes you try to start throwing too hard. You’ve just got to stay calm and collected but also keep pitching with a focus at the same time.”

In the 18 games in which Kimbrel has blown a save, only four times has he been charged with a loss as well. The Braves have actually come back and won five games in which he blew a save. It’s all part of “holding it right there.”

“That’s the bottom line,” Kimbrel said. “It has nothing to do with my numbers. It’s wins and losses. Win ballgames - that’s what most important.”

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