It took until June 27th, but former Red Sox All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel finally picked up his first save of the 2019 season on Thursday, as he closed out a 9-7 over the Atlanta Braves in his Chicago Cubs debut.
Signed to a three-year, $43 million deal by Chicago back on June 7th, the Cubs recalled the flame throwing closer from Triple-A Iowa on Thursday, where he posted a 2.45 ERA and .154 batting average against over four appearances (one start) and 3 2/3 innings pitched.
In his first big league appearance of 2019, Kimbrel struck out the first man he faced in former teammate Brian McCann before allowing two of the next three Braves he faced to reach base on a single and a walk, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs in the form of Freddie Freeman.
Freeman grounded out to first on the first pitch he saw from Kimbrel though, and that was how the seven-time All-Star wrapped up the win for his new team.
Needing 20 pitches, 13 of which were strikes, to get through the outing, Kimbrel topped out at 97.6 MPH with his four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 13 times. The other seven were knuckle curveballs.
It’s been said before, but the Red Sox would probably have a better record than 44-38 at the moment had they brought Kimbrel back on a new contract over the winter.
The 31-year-old’s demands were high initially, but by adding on a third year to a deal that will pay Kimbrel approximately $16 million annually over the 2020 and 2021 seasons, the Cubs were able to solidify the back end of their bullpen by bringing in a true closer, something the Red Sox appear to desperately need themselves.