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Kimbrel slump making things uncomfortable for Red Sox

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2018 - 12:03 am

TORONTO -- Craig Kimbrel has blown saves before. Heck, he's done it this year in this very same city.

But when the Red Sox closer allowed the game-tying home run to Justin Smoak in the ninth inning Tuesday night, it represented more than just a random blip on the radar. This time the blast was a continuation of a very un-Kimbrel-like streak that might be making things a bit uncomfortable that is the juggernaut that is the Red Sox.

Since July 23, Kimbrel has totaled an 8.44 ERA and .300 batting average against, managing to save just two of his four opportunities. He has allowed at least one run in four of the five appearances.

This time the struggle really came down to one at-bat, but it was still a pretty big bump in the road. Kimbrel went to 3-0 on Smoak thanks to some errant curveballs, paving the way for 97 mph fastball that was promptly sent over the Rogers Centre right field fence.

So, what's wrong?

After his team's 10-7, 10-inning win, Red Sox manager Alex Cora pointed to Kimbrel's breaking ball.

"I don't if it's an issue but it's not there since Baltimore, he's been struggling with it," said Cora of the closer's curveball. "His fastball is still there, his velocity is good, location is still good but I think that the breaking ball, you see them foul it off, taking it right away, it seems like they're recognizing the pitch right away as a ball and they're not offering. Like everybody else, we'll get back, take a look at it and we'll fix him and if we have a save situation he'll be there tomorrow."

Kimbrel wasn't quite as specific.

"I think it's been command of everything," he said. "You can throw strikes but it depends on where you're throwing them. You can have command in the zone or out of the zone. You kind of float through those as the year goes on. The last couple of weeks I've been struggling with some things and working through them. Even though I gave up the home run tonight I felt like I made a bunch of strides forward. Fastball was a little better tonight and breaking ball was sharp at times. Frustrating, but happy we won the game today."

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