The latest chapter in the Craig Kimbrel saga went down last night, and it was filled with hope and optimism followed by disbelief and despair. Or at least some version of despair, the kind you feel when your favorite team loses a game that doesn’t actually matter.
The reason Kimbrel’s performance did matter, though, is because he’s pitching not just for his role as closer in October, but for his spot on the postseason roster. The Dodgers have a roster crunch coming up, especially if a few guys on the injured list get healthy, and Kimbrel is in real danger of not making the cut.
After the game, which saw Kimbrel get a huge strikeout of Manny Machado with the winning run on third only to walk the next two hitters for the loss, Kimbrel faced the media and answered the tough questions.
Craig Kimbrel said his pitches just weren’t competitive enough tonight. Cited command obviously as an issue again
Does he think he can still contribute to the Dodgers in the playoffs?
“I think so. I think I’ve some good pitching to do in the next couple of days to prove that.”
— Jack Harris (@Jack_A_Harris) September 28, 2022
Yeah, when you walk a guy who hadn’t walked in his previous 59 plate appearances, command is pretty easy to identify as the issue. As Eric Karros said on the broadcast during the at-bat, Kimbrel was going to get swings from Jorge Alfaro even out of the zone, as long as he was missing high or low. But all four balls to Alfaro were outside, and the last two missed by six or eight inches. They were, to put it bluntly, noncompetitive pitches.
But the 8-time All-Star’s stuff is still good. His strikeout of Machado demonstrated that, and at the time it seemed like it might jumpstart Kimbrel back into the hearts of Dodger fans. But after getting Brandon Drury in a 1-2 count, he threw three straight noncompetitive pitches that missed the zone by close to a foot. Then ran into the same issue with Alfaro.
Command is a tricky thing with a pitcher, and it can come and go with no warning. The Dodgers have spent all season betting that his stuff would eventually shine through, and they’ve been rewarded at times. But Kimbrel is absolutely right that he has a lot of work to do in a very short time to prove he deserves a spot on the postseason roster.
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