Cole Kimball got the call late Friday. He didn’t sleep all night and caught an early flight to Washington. At 3:24 p.m., Kimball threw his first major league pitch, a 92 mph fastball for a called strike, against Marlins cleanup hitter Gaby Sanchez.
He struck out Sanchez on four pitches. Logan Morrison lined out to second base and Mike Stanton walked. Kimball then got Greg Dobbs to fly out to left.
In less than 24 hours, right-hander Kimball went from the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs to recording three outs in the top of the ninth inning against the Florida Marlins.
His major league debut was a resounding success.
Kimball said he didn’t even know the first batter he faced was the power hitting Sanchez.
“I was just trying to throw strike one,” Kimball said. “One leg was shaking when I was taking the sign. My other leg was shaking when I coming set. Would have been better if we had won but it was an exciting game to be a part of.”
The 25-year-old Kimball said he was close to striking out Stanton as well, but lost him after getting ahead in the count.
“I hate to lose a batter when you got him 0-2,” Kimball said. “I tried to make the splitter too nasty. I missed on a fastball away. I just went with it. I was probably telegraphing a little bit. I will make an adjustment tomorrow.”
“I just want to help out. Getting the call up and getting the chance be in all these close games, it is a thrill like no other. It is awesome.”
Nationals manager Jim Riggleman usually hopes he can get his new pitchers in the game in a non-pressure situation. With a one-run deficit and the game in the balance, Kimball was put in at a critical time. He took advantage of the opportunity.
“It was pretty cool to get thrown right into the fire,” Kimball said. “I think that maybe part of what helped me a little bit was I didn’t have to think about anything. I had to just think about throwing strikes. It was a (darn) good first experience. Hopefully, there will be plenty more like it.”