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What was wrong with Craig Kimbrel? Red Sox think they know

Rob Bradford
October 10, 2018 - 10:35 am

NEW YORK -- This was about as uncomfortable an image as anyone could imagine.

The struggling Craig Kimbrel attempting to find his way through the most powerful lineup in the majors while seemingly not having a good idea where his pitches were going. In the end, the result was a seven-batter, 28-pitch (with just 13 strikes) outing that included the final three outs of the Red Sox' American League Division Series with the Yankees.

Sure, everyone knew that closing a game out in Yankee Stadium against the heart of this New York order wasn't going to be easy, but few believed it was going to be this difficult.

"Well, it got a little exciting there at the end," said Kimbrel.

So, what was wrong with the closer?

One notable issue was Kimbrel consistently needing to wipe his hand on the dirt and his uniform due to what looked like an exorbitant amount of moisture on the pitcher's hand. For that, the pitcher had a theory.

"The ball was a little slick," Kimbrel said. "I don’t know if it had to do with (home plate umpire Angel Hernandez's) bag. If they were coming out of his bag a little slick. I was just trying to get some of the moisture off my hand so I could get a good grip of the ball. I don’t think it’s abnormal. Late in the game, we get kind of used to that as pitchers."

But the bigger issue was how wild Kimbrel became, starting with a four-pitch, leadoff walk to Aaron Judge. After Kimbrel allowed two runs on two hits and a walk, stranding a pair, Red Sox pitching coach Dana LeVangie said he believed the issue has been identified.

"We talk about some things that I feel like he does when he's pretty consistent. He got away from it a little bit tonight," LeVangie told "There was extra effort and energy, which you could all see. But he does one thing that I feel like in his delivery that kind of locks him in and allows him to ride the slope down, he wasn't doing it tonight, so we'll talk about it moving forward.

"There are so many things going on, runners picking up signs on second base or whatever, there's a lot going on.  I wasn't worried about it too much. It is what it is. We have our best guy in the game at that time."