BOSTON -- It is a situation Craig Kimbrel has found himself in often this season. As fans began to cheer and "Stranglehold" by Ted Nugent blared over the loud speaker Friday night, Kimbrel would have to face the heart of the Cubs' order to secure a Red Sox victory.
He did just that. Using his triple-digit fastball and deceptive curveball, Kimbrel silenced the Cubs' bats and secured a 5-4 win for the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Kimbrel began the ninth inning by striking out Kristopher Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. He then allowed a double to Benjamin Zobrist, only to hunker down and strike out Addison Russell to get his American League-leading eighth save. He now has retired 21 of his last 22 batters, 15 via strikeout.
"Everybody late in the game is throwing 100 and has two other pitches, it's crazy. I don't know how they can make the ball do what they make it do sometimes," Bryant said. "There's an occasional bat will get them and we battled them. I think you have to go into those at-bats with expectations and go up there and battle.
"The chances of you really squaring one up is very slim off a guy like that. Don't give up, but [you need to] almost start in a two-strike mode right from the get-go."
It wasn't just Kimbrel who had a solid performance. With the Cubs down by one run and runners on first and second base in the eighth inning, left-hander Fernando Abad struck out Matthew Szczur and Kyle Schwarber to end the threat.
Abad, who's been in very few high-pressure situations, yelled in excitement and pumped his fists in the air after getting out of the jam.
"Overall, our guys, whether it was Drew [Pomeranz] or the guys coming out of the bullpen, we did a pretty darn good job with men in scoring position, making big pitches to keep a big inning from happening," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Fernando's two strikeouts were key, and then Kimbrel has been Craig; he's been overpowering. Great stuff."