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Dominant Kimbrel off to strong start in 2014

MILWAUKEE -- Braves closer Craig Kimbrel, who led the National League with a career-high 50 saves last season, was pleased with his first outing of the season, striking out all three batters he faced in the ninth inning to save Atlanta's 5-2 victory over the Brewers on Tuesday night.

"Everybody wants to get off to a good start. If you get off to a rough start, you're kind of digging yourself a hole. But it doesn't mean it's the end of the season," Kimbrel said. "I had a rough start in '11, but the ballclub stuck with me and let me get more confident in myself back then. Obviously I'm more confident with myself now, because I've been at it for a few years than when I was battling for the job. It's definitely a different scenario, different situation."

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke marveled at the ease with which Kimbrel carved through the ninth inning Tuesday night, striking out all three batters he faced despite lacking command of his slider.

"He was 96-98 [mph] last night, and we've had guys like that," Roenicke said. "When [Alfredo] Figaro was here, he was 96-98, and why are the swings so different [against Kimbrel]? There's something about the way his ball comes out that happens at the plate and guys can't catch up.

"He got a couple strikeouts on 96 last night. We have some guys that throw 96, but it's a different 96. He's got life on it, he's got good command with it, and it's hard to teach those things. It's just the way it comes out."

Despite 138 saves over the last three seasons, or maybe because of it, Kimbrel said he strives to improve each time out, or at the very least not slide backwards.

"You're always trying to figure out what you can do better, make yourself feel better when you're out there and pitch better," Kimbrel said. "You can feel [bad] and go out there and get three outs and be happy with it, but it's such a long season. You have to be able to get those three outs that day, but you have to figure out what you did wrong, because you may not be able to do that again your next outing. You can go out there and feel [bad] only so many times."

Although it was his first appearance of the season, Kimbrel said he didn't feel any extra pressure.

"The pressure's the same. My job is to go out there in a save situation and do my job," Kimbrel said. "It's the same pressure each and every outing at each and every position. In a situation, you figure out what you need to do and how you need to do it. That just comes with experience."

Jim Hoehn is a contributor to Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon.
Read More: Atlanta Braves, Craig Kimbrel