Kimbrel earns 100th career save
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Craig Kimbrel struck out four of the six batters he faced while helping the Braves win Game 2 of the 2010 National League Division Series against the Giants, he was a highly regarded middle reliever who was showing signs of his great potential.
Visions of that memorable outing danced through Kimbrel's head after he notched his 100th career save while standing on that same AT&T Park mound during the Braves' 6-3 win over the Giants on Thursday night.
"It felt like it was yesterday when we were out here in the playoffs," Kimbrel said. "It's gone by really fast. I'm definitely taking it in a little bit. It's definitely nice to get that milestone and just move on. We still have a long season to go and hopefully we can get a lot more."
Last week, Kimbrel was in position to reach the century mark in the third-fewest appearances in Major League history. But that was before he allowed a two-out, ninth-inning home run to David Wright on Friday and two more home runs with two outs in the ninth inning of Tuesday's loss to the Reds.
Still 17 days shy of his 25th birthday, Kimbrel is the second-youngest pitcher to reach 100 saves. Francisco Rodriguez became the youngest when he reached the century mark 246 days after his 24th birthday.
"I wanted to get back out there yesterday, but the guys scored too many runs," Kimbrel said. "So it was good to get back out there. I'm still working on a few things. I still haven't got it 100 percent back to where I need to be. But it felt good to go back out there and throw a scoreless inning."
Making his first appearance since Tuesday, Kimbrel retired the first two Giants batters he faced and then surrendered an Brandon Crawford's opposite-field double before ending the game with a Brandon Belt groundout. It was a solid rebound effort for the young closer, who had blown three of his previous five save opportunities.
This season, Kimbrel has not yet shown the same kind of dominance he displayed while notching a 1.01 ERA and striking out more than half of the batters he faced last year (116 of 231).
But among all Major League relievers who have ever totaled at least 175 career appearances, he ranks first in hits per nine innings (4.95), strikeouts per nine innings (15.66), strikeouts per batter faced (.446), opponent's on-base percentage (.241) and opponent's batting average (.157).
"It's crazy," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "It just feels like yesterday that we were in the 2010 postseason and that was kind of like his come out party. That's when he let everybody know that he's for real. What he has done in his [three years], that's hard to do. Nobody really does that."