Padres interim manager Pat Murphy went to the mound to make a pitching change in the bottom of the eighth, replacing Joaquin Benoit with Kimbrel, giving him a four-out save opportunity with two out and a runner on second.
Murphy told Kimbrel before leaving the mound in no uncertain terms that he was going to hit. Kimbrel didn't realize it at the time, but the pitcher's spot was due up third in the ninth inning.
"I was kind of caught off guard," Kimbrel said. "I didn't realize it. I didn't know if I was up fourth or whatever. But it was fun."
First, Kimbrel got Jarrod Saltalamacchia to ground out to second on his first offering, ending the threat. Then, it was Kimbrel's chance at the plate, with two out and nobody on against Josh Collmenter. He struck out looking, fouling off the second pitch.
"It didn't matter when I was going to get it, the result would have been the same," Kimbrel said about the at bat. "He threw me a nasty front-door cutter. I wasn't expecting that. I'm glad I got at least one swing."
Kimbrel then went out and did the job he's paid to do, striking out the D-backs in order in the bottom of the ninth to record his 37th save of the season and 223rd already of his short career.
Murphy decided that he didn't want to double switch with either of the last two batters of the eighth inning -- his middle infielders Jedd Gyorko or Cory Spangenberg -- when Kimbrel came into the game.
"It's a little unorthodox, but that's the way we chose to do it," Murphy said. "We knew we were going to be questioned about it. If they tie the game there, [Kimbrel] doesn't hit. We were taking a chance, but it's time to take some chances. Nothing else has worked."
Of all the preseason deals engineered by general manager A.J. Preller, getting Kimbrel from the Braves might have been the best. The Padres, after all, have always had a lights out closer.
One of them, Trevor Hoffman, with his all-time National League-leading 601 saves, will be on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time later in the year. Hoffman had 36 plate appearances and four hits in 18 years.
The season has been a frustrating one, Kimbrel said.
"It's been disappointing," he said. "We played good ball at times, but we were never able to put it together. Personally for myself I can say it has been a frustrating year."
Wednesday night, though, provided a high note. Kimbrel had one at-bat in six Minor League seasons and struck out that time, too -- in 2010 for Atlanta's Triple-A affiliate, Gwinnett. There's not a lot of slugging history there.
"Obviously I hit in high school, but when I went to college [Wallace State Community] I didn't hit at all there, either," Kimbrel said. "I mess around [in the batting cage], but they don't let me do too much. They don't want me to pull an oblique or something. It's been a long time since I've had a consistent at-bat and tonight definitely showed that."
He might have another five years to get ready for the next one.