After the Red Sox hung on to win Game 4 of the ALCS against the Astros 8-6, I hope Craig Kimbrel took Andrew Benintendi out to a very fancy Houston restaurant and bought him the most expensive steak dinner available. (Ed. Note: He did say after the game he’d buy him a very nice Christmas present, so there’s that.)
Why? Because Benintendi saved Kimbrel’s rear end so that the suddenly-ineffective closer could escape a boatload of danger once again without technically blowing the save … for the fourth time in this postseason.
With the Sox leading by two in the bottom of the ninth, and the bases loaded with two outs, Alex Bregman smacked a line drive to left field that was almost a game-tying — or maybe even game-winning if it rolled to the wall — base hit. It would’ve been exactly that if Benintendi hadn’t laid himself out, nearly eating a face-full of grass, and just barely scooped the ball off the ground to record the final out of the game.
Seriously, Craig, whatever Andrew wants from now on, you better make sure he gets it.
Kimbrel has made four appearances in these playoffs, two against the Yankees in the division series and now twice against the Astros in the ALCS. All four times, he has been a complete and utter disaster, the kind that baseball nightmares are made of. Every single time Alex Cora has brought Kimbrel into the game, he has given up at least one run and been on the verge of giving the game away. Right now, he’s throwing the ball about three or feet off the plate and walking batters left and right. If he’s not walking someone, he’s hitting them. He’s supposed to be one of the most dominant closers in baseball, but right now he looks like he could barely get three outs in a Little League game.
Enough is enough. Four times now, Kimbrel has pitched what can only be considered the worst baseball of his career, and by nothing short of sheer miracles, he’s been able to escape by the skin of his teeth each time without blowing the lead. The fourth time, he wouldn’t have been able to get out of it had Benintendi not made the most clutch catch in recent memory.
So I ask you, Alex Cora, how many more times are you going to let this happen? Are you just going to wait until the wheels fall off completely? In Game 4, they were as close to falling off as they could possibly get without actually falling off. The next time Kimbrel pitches, I think it’s going to finally happen. He can only dodge so many bullets. The fifth time, he’s going to get hit right between the eyes.
You can’t let it happen, Alex Cora. Your formerly dominant closer is an absolute shell of what he used to be. He could not possibly look any worse on the mound than he has in his last four outings. That near horrific disaster in Game 4 should be the final straw. Kimbrel cannot be used anymore in these spots during these playoffs.
Maybe next year, he’ll get his head back on his shoulders and start pitching like himself. But we can worry about that next year. Right now, the only thing we should be worrying about is how Kimbrel is about to burn this team if something doesn’t change.
For the rest of this postseason, Kimbrel needs to take a seat. Put a fork in him. He’s done.