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Orioles All-Star Closer Has Rebounded From Tough Stretch

When Craig Kimbrel encountered recent struggles, many thought his elite reign had ended, but lately, he’s been able to rebound. During this past offseason, the Baltimore Orioles had a dire need to fill: a closer. All-Star Félix Bautista underwent Tommy John surgery and was going to miss the entire 2024 season. So the Orioles signed Craig Kimbrel to a one-year deal. The Orioles hoped that he had another great year left in him. Early on, Kimbrel was elite, but in late April/early May, he underwent a stretch where he gave up six earned runs in five appearances. That got him removed from the closer role. However, Kimbrel has earned that spot again and has been dominant over the last month.

Craig Kimbrel’s Rebound from Rough Patch

An Impressive, Historic, Start

Kimbrel got off to a very hot start for the Orioles. Through his first 11 appearances, he had a 0.82 ERA. He had allowed just two runs, and only one was earned. He had a minute WHIP of just 0.64. Also, Kimbrel struck out an astounding 17 batters, while only walking two. Throughout these performances, he recorded seven saves and three wins. Kimbrel was entering big-time situations and was coming through, consistently. This type of pitching is exactly what the Orioles needed in order to replicate Bautista’s impact. During this stretch, Kimbrel also made some history. He became the first pitcher who never started a game to record 1,200 strikeouts.

Kimbrel was firing on all cylinders and seemed as though he was well on his way to a 10th All-Star appearance.

Kimbrel Hits A Rough Patch

The tide changed for Kimbrel during a series with the Oakland Athletics. He blew saves in back-to-back appearances, giving up three earned runs while recording just one out over two games. On top of this, Kimbrel suffered an injury and missed a couple of days, having to sit with two bad outings on his mind. But he was able to come back five days later and record a save against the Cincinnati Reds while becoming fifth all-time in saves. But that positive outing did not start a trend, as Kimbrel then nearly blew a save the next night, and blew one couple days later. This rough stretch caused Kimbrel’s ERA to balloon up to 4.73 and also cost him his spot as the closer. Manager Brandon Hyde said he still had confidence in Kimbrel, and the Orioles were “going to stick with him.” They stuck with him, just not as a closer for a couple of outings. That is until recently, when Kimbrel regained the closer role and is now looking much like his old self.

Craig Kimbrel Returns To His Closer Role

On May 19th, a week and a half removed from his last save opportunity, Kimbrel got a chance to close again. He earned the save against the Seattle Mariners, which started a stretch of five straight relief appearances with a save. Kimbrel has returned to his old form, striking out batters at a high rate, while walking very few. In fact, he did not give up a walk, or a hit, during this period. The veteran closer ended May with a 3.00 ERA, and after two more outstanding outings in June, his ERA sits at an elite 2.82. After a rough stretch, where fans questioned if Kimbrel should even remain on the team, Kimbrel has bounced back strong. He has now recorded 14 saves this year, which is good for seventh in MLB. If he can keep up his good play, Craig Kimbrel is someone who will be a key part of the Oriole’s potential playoff run.


Photo Credit: © Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports


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