Kimbrel gives the Braves peace of mind
When Billy Wagner limped off the field Friday night, I’m sure many of you were saying, “enough is enough.” Now the Braves can only hope that enough doesn’t prove to be too much.
Without Chipper Jones, the Braves could lean on Martin Prado. Without Jones and Prado, the Braves find themselves leaning on the hope that their pitching staff will require scoring just a couple of runs or that Giants closer Brian Wilson is asked to record six outs.
Without Wagner, the Braves have lost the best closer they ever had not named Smoltz. But with Craig Kimbrel already providing indication that he could soon fit in that elite category, they find themselves capable of surviving without Wagner.
Manager Bobby Cox has said that he might also utilized Jonny Venters, Peter Moylan or Kyle Farnsworth in the closer’s role, based on the situation of the game. But right now, Kimbrel legitimately stands as one of the game’s most impressive relievers.
Dating back to Sept. 9 (when Kimbrel made his first appearance after the completion of Triple-A Gwinnett’s season) and extending through the end of the regular season, Kimbrel and Wagner led the Majors (min. 10 IP) with 18.26 strikeouts per nine innings.
Here’s how similar Wagner and Kimbrel truly were dating back to Sept. 9:
Wagner: 11.1 IP, 4 H, 2 runs, 1 ER, 5 BBs, 23 Ks
Kimbrel: 11.1 IP, 4 H, 0 runs, 5 BBs, 23 Ks.
Kimbrel obviously has nowhere near the valuable experience Wagner has acquired during his storied career. But the 22-year-old right-hander certainly showed great poise while delivering those two scoreless innings in enemy territory to keep the game scored heading into the 10th inning Friday night.
With Tim Hudson opposing Jonathan Sanchez this afternoon, the Braves will be looking to win a game that has proven pivotal in most other NLDS.
The team that has won Game 3 to claim a 2-1 series lead has gone on to win the NLDS 15 of 16 times. Unfortunately for the Braves, the lone exception came after they won two of the first three games they played against the 2002 Giants.