Instead of finishing off a three-run lead with what would have been his 31st save of the season, Kimbrel didn't retire any of the four batters he faced and he watched from the dugout when Mark Teixeira ended the game with a walk-off grand slam against Joe Kelly. Kimbrel threw 28 pitches while walking three and allowing a hit. The righty didn't realize until he got back to the dugout that the Red Sox had already clinched the division due to the Orioles beating the Blue Jays.
Kimbrel will get at least one more opportunity to pitch in the regular season, manager John Farrell said on Thursday.
"He was erratic, there's no doubt," said Farrell. "The command was not there. The power was there obviously, but the command was not. It turns into a situation where you get to 30 pitches. Could we have let him go further or could the decision have been made to leave him in the game? Sure. Last night was more of an aberration certainly since he's come back off the DL and he's been stingy in those situations. That was a one-time outing last night. He'll be on the mound before this regular season ends."
Kimbrel would have loved to allow the Red Sox to celebrate on the field at Yankee Stadium by recording the save, but by the time he returned to the clubhouse, all had been forgotten.
In the visitors' clubhouse, Boston was celebrating an AL East title which might not have been possible without the closer who was acquired from the Padres.
"I wouldn't say I was anxious. I was actually pretty calm out there," Kimbrel said. "There was some close check swings that I thought maybe went the wrong way. You know what? It's over now. Put it behind us. Like John [Farrell] said, 'Don't let one game get in the way of the pleasure of doing what we did this year.' Personally, it's frustrating, but you know what? We have a few more games before the playoffs and it will be something that will be easy to put behind me."
For the season, Kimbrel has converted 30 of 32 save opportunities while posting a 3.35 ERA. Opponents are hitting .156 against him and Kimbrel has 81 strikeouts in 52 innings.
In short, the Red Sox feel good about the closer entering the postseason.