Closer Craig Kimbrel's season is trending up again

CHICAGO – Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel’s season has once again taken a turn for the better. He got a save in the recent Seattle series – just his second save since late April.

After going thru a six-game slump where he dealt with upper back soreness and gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings, his last four outings looked a lot like his first 10.

In those first 10 innings, through April 22, he allowed one run with one walk and 16 strikeouts. Then he briefly was yanked from his closer’s role while staying on the active roster and dealing with the back issue.

Now, over his past four games he has not allowed a hit or run with no walks and six strikeouts.

It’s like he has had three different seasons. His last save was No. 426 of his career in his 800th career appearance. He is No. 6 on the all-time saves list.

During the St. Louis series, where he did not pitch, he talked about his up and down and up again season.

“Yeah, I mean, from where we were at the start of the year, I was able to have a good start and watch my stuff kind of build up as we went. I had a little stretch where physically I wasn’t feeling so great and tried to throw through it. Didn’t work out so well. But yeah, I’m getting my foot down I feel on time and the ball is coming out good now. Hope I can stay there,” he said.

Is his back issue, no pun intended, behind him now?

“That just comes with the nature of playing this game. Having played it as long as I have, each and every day brings a new challenge. You tackle it and get ready,” he said.

Kimbrel was yanked from games in the ninth inning during his struggles. He said he should have been pulled and said manager Brandon Hyde handled him well with strong communication during that time.

“Really appreciative how he did it,” said Kimbrel, 35. “I kind of pitched myself into that spot. We communicated really well. Obviously translating what was going on and what we needed to do to fix it. Both of us agreed to get into some spots not closing out games where I could try to get back on track. Where I could still help the team and kind of get back into that groove. And that is what we were able to do.”

I asked Kimbrel how he analyzes his own pitching. Is it mostly results driven or are there other things, stats or metrics he looks at?

“Results and how you feel don’t always translate in this game. You could feel great and go out and give up the house. So how you physically feel, and how you do can be two different things," he said.

In most of his good outings for the Orioles, Kimbrel has had real solid fastball command, painting some corners. But when he is truly on, he said, it's more about the command of the secondaries.

“Obviously fastball command is needed and very helpful. But when you have better command of your offspeed pitches, it makes the command of your fastball play that much better. I’m a believer that if I’m throwing my breaking ball for strikes or forcing them to respect that I will throw it for strikes, it actually allows me to get them to swing at pitches out of the zone with my fastball.”

For now, the O's have their closer going well again and hope to keep it that way. After being swept to start this road trip, they hope to have some save chances in Chicago.

For now, Kimbrel is enjoying being an Oriole and being around his young and talented teammates.

“Been fun. A fun group. Especially when you have this much talent. We have a lot of expectations in here and expect a lot out of ourselves. Having the guys with the attitude and the want to do it which show up every day. That is fun," he said.

On to Chicago: But getting swept is not fun and the Orioles were in St. Louis losing three straight to the Cardinals amid the rain delays and lack of Baltimore runs.

The Orioles scored just eight runs on 14 hits at Busch Stadium and hit one homer in that series. After scoring 5.6 runs per game over the season's first 27 games, the O's have scored three runs or less 11 times in the past 20 games. In that span they have scored 3.9 runs per game.

The Chicago White Sox (15-35) have the worst record in the majors and the worst run differential too at -107. They have gone 1-5 in their past two series against the Yankees and Blue Jays.

But despite all that and since beginning the year with a horrid 3-22 record, they are 12-13 in their past 25 games.

The O's played quite poorly in St. Louis and it's time to start hitting more and cleaning it up a bit. Maybe that starts tonight in Chicago.

I hope you can tune into the Orioles Radio Network, heard in Baltimore on WBAL and 98 Rock, at some point this series as I will be broadcasting the games from Chicago with Ben Wagner. Join the Ben and Steve show this weekend from the booth in Chicago.



Means to IL, Heasley recalled
This, that and the other

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to