BOSTON -- Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel wants the ball in any situation. But the numbers show a pitcher who is far better when he comes in to notch a save.Kimbrel's struggles in non-save situations cropped up again in Monday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox in 10 innings.Pitching for
BOSTON -- Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel wants the ball in any situation. But the numbers show a pitcher who is far better when he comes in to notch a save.
Kimbrel's struggles in non-save situations cropped up again in Monday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox in 10 innings.
Pitching for the third straight day, Kimbrel began his outing by walking No. 8 hitter Avisail Garcia on four pitches. J.B. Shuck followed with a single. Kimbrel worked his way back into the inning with two straight outs, but then he had to deal with the ever-dangerous Jose Abreu.
The slugger ripped a misplaced, 2-2 fastball by Kimbrel -- clocked at 99 mph -- and roped it into the gap in right-center for a two-run double that proved to be the difference in the game.
Consider that in save situations this Kimbrel has a 1.53 ERA and two walks while striking out 27 over 17 2/3 innings. Then there are the non-saves, in which he has a 4.35 ERA while walking seven batters over 10 1/3 innings.
"Well, if I get the last out in a save situation, the game's over," Kimbrel said. "And in a non-save, my job is to get us in the dugout and give us a chance. And I didn't give us a chance today."
That said, Kimbrel doesn't sense any lack in concentration when there isn't a save at stake.
"I feel comfortable on the mound," Kimbrel said. "It doesn't matter what the situation is. I've still got to get outs."
In this instance, the leadoff walk and the badly missed location to Abreu were Kimbrel's downfalls.
"You never want to start the inning off with a walk," Kimbrel said. "That kind of set up the whole inning. One pitch from getting out of it, but that double to Abreu, and it wasn't the case today."
"We've got a chance to put Abreu away with two strikes, a 2-2 count," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "He is trying to elevate a fastball away from him and stay out of a hot zone, which is down and away, and he ends up throwing a fastball down and away that ends up being the difference in this one."
Does Farrell have any theories on why Kimbrel has been so much better in save situations?
"In a save situation, maybe there's a little bit more sense of urgency on the part of the opposition, where they might offer at some pitches just off the edge," Farrell said. "That's the only thing I can probably point to at this point. I can't say he's a different pitcher in a non-save situation."
But there's no question he has very different numbers. Kimbrel and the Red Sox hope those will even out over the course of the season.
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.