Red Sox should be worried about Craig Kimbrel
SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale and For The Win’s Ted Berg tell us who they think is the favorite to win the upcoming ALCS between the Red Sox and Astros.
They won 108 games in the regular season and then blasted past their rivals in the ALDS, but the Boston Red Sox certainly have cause for concern heading into the league championship series against the Houston Astros.
Closer Craig Kimbrel nearly blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 4 against the Yankees, continuing a rough stretch for the seven-time All-Star. He had a 4.57 ERA in the second half and his roller-coaster outing Tuesday was just days after giving up a homer with a two-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 1.
Boston’s bullpen is considered a bit of liability – as far as World Series contenders go – but Kimbrel is supposed to be the rock. Admittedly, his second-half ERA was inflated by a four-run outing in September, and the Red Sox’s huge lead in the division allowed them to rest their closer.
Still, some numbers stick out.
Kimbrel issued 16 walks in 40⅔ innings before the break, but walked 15 hitters in 21⅔ in the second half. Just 13 of his 28 pitches were strikes in his Game 4 outing, which saw Kimbrel walk two batters and hit another.
The 30-year-old has now given up a run in three consecutive postseason outings, dating back to Game 4 of the ALDS last season, when he gave up three hits with a walk and a hit batsman against the Astros, including a key insurance run in the ninth.