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Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Thoughts: Down goes Craig Kimbrel

By David Schoenfield

Crazy night in baseball -- Matt Harvey's near-perfect game, the Yankees getting shut out at Coors Field, ninth-inning wins for the Blue Jays (a victory made less joyous after J.A. Happ was hit in the head by a line drive) and Diamondbacks, Yuniesky Betancourt homering again -- but the most stunning result happened in Cincinnati, where the Reds hit back-to-back home runs with two outs off Craig Kimbrel to defeat the Braves 5-4.

It was just the second time in 30 years that a team hit back-to-back home runs with two outs in the ninth to win a game (Nick Green and J.D. Drew did it for the Braves in 2004). That it came off Kimbrel, regarded as the game's best closer, was all the more shocking.

First, Devin Mesoraco, pinch-hitting, lined a 3-2 low fastball just over the fence in right-center to tie it and then Shin-Soo Choo hit his second homer of the game, off another low fastball, for the improbable walk-off.

We all remember how dominant Kimbrel was last season. Not only did he strike out over half the batters he faced, he allowed just four extra-base hits -- three home runs and a double. He's now allowed three home runs and two doubles in 2013 in just 13.1 innings and has blown three save chances -- and the Braves lost all three games. You can point to his still-great strikeout totals (21) but the bottom line is Kimbrel has not done the job. That's three losses for the Braves in games they led entering the ninth inning, after losing just one such game a year ago.

In 2012, the 30 teams combined to lose just 111 such games --3.7 per team. So unless Kimbrel is perfect the rest of the way, the Braves' ability to protect ninth-inning leads will likely be worse than the average major league team.

Making Kimbrel just another overrated closer.

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