Boston's Craig Kimbrel and Colorado's Greg Holland, two closers who have been showing the kind of dominance they were known for earlier this decade in the other league, were named The Hartford American League and National League Relievers of the Month for May, respectively. The awards were announced on Friday by Major League Baseball.
Opponents are 0 for their last 30 with one walk and 18 strikeouts against Kimbrel -- his longest such streak since holding hitters to a 0-for-28 during the 2012 season. Kimbrel has retired 62 of the past 67 batters he's faced, including 42 of his past 45. Right-handed hitters are 0-for-45 with three walks against him -- the longest hitless stretch for any pitcher within one season since Joel Pineiro (0-for-51) in '01.
Kimbrel has been especially automatic against right-handed hitters, not allowing a hit in 24 innings this season. He recently snapped a streak of 65 batters faced without issuing a walk (after posting a career-worst 5.1 walks per nine last season). Kimbrel had seven saves in May along with a win and a hold, and his WHIP was an infinitesimal 0.375. A microcosm was his five-out win on May 11 at Milwaukee, which he finished with an immaculate inning -- nine pitches, three strikeouts.
"Nothing is ever given or automatic, but [Kimbrel is] pretty darn close right now," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It's efficient. It's two wipeout pitches. It's fun to see."
Holland won the NL award for the second month in a row -- not surprising considering that he has been arguably the best free-agent signing of the past offseason and is a leading contender for the NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. The big spending for relievers was on Albertin Chapman (Yankees), Kenley Jansen (Dodgers), Mark Melancon (Giants) and Brett Cecil (Cardinals), but Holland has been a coup for Colorado with his incentive-laden one-year contract.
Holland's saves total was down from 11 in April to eight in May, as he was given no save opportunities in Colorado's final 10 games of the past month. In nine May appearances, he allowed three hits, and the only run Holland gave up came on a solo homer off him in a non-save opportunity on May 28 against St. Louis. On Mother's Day, Holland broke Jose Jimenez's 2002 club record by making it 16-for-16 in saves to start a season. Holland's overall numbers are on track for what he produced in his best Kansas City seasons, but his ground-ball percentage is higher -- 50 percent, especially important at Coors Field -- and his BABIP is down significantly to .231.
"This game will chew you up just about the time you have it figured out," said Holland, who saved a combined 125 games for Kansas City from 2013-15 and missed last season after reconstructive elbow surgery. "But I'm very confident every time out there, just like everybody in this room."
The award is an extension of MLB's partnership with The Hartford, which annually presents the Mariano Rivera AL Reliever of the Year and the Trevor Hoffman NL Reliever of the Year Awards. The winners are determined by a panel of industry experts.