The Los Angeles Dodgers offense battled back from two deficits and took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 11th inning, but they were unable to secure the victory as Craig Kimbrel blew his fourth save of the season to give the Milwaukee Brewers a 5-4 walk-off win.
To start the bottom half of the inning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called on Kimbrel, who has had his share of struggles this season, and they continued into Tuesday.
With the runner on second base to start the inning, Hunter Renfroe singled on a soft bunt, which advanced Andrew McCutchen to third. Kimbrel then followed by striking out Kolten Wong and walking Luis Urías before Victor Caratini delivered the game-winning two-run on a weak fly ball.
While Kimbrel was not able to pick up his 21st save of the season, Roberts believes the veteran right-hander threw the ball well and suffered some unlucky circumstances, via SportsNet LA:
“Honestly, what I saw, they executed a perfect sacrifice bunt. Hunter Renfroe made a great bunt. It’s something that he just doesn’t do. He made a great play, and you tip your cap. It was a heck of a baseball play. Put them in a situation spot, and he got that punch to Wong, and there was a walk in there, but Caratini, it was a flare. I thought there were a lot of good throws in there. Obviously, the result is a loss for us, but I really felt Craig threw the baseball just fine tonight.”
Kimbrel now owns a 4.57 ERA in 41.1 innings with a 1.55 WHIP and four blown saves. That makes him arguably the least effective reliever in the Dodgers bullpen, but despite that, Roberts is still not considering a change:
“I thought Craig threw the baseball just fine. … I think that’s some of the noise that I have to drown out and see how the ball is coming out, see the execution. The command was considerably better; tonight he was striking the breaking ball. Yeah, the result is not what any of us wanted. But I’m not just going to go by results alone if I believe that the stuff is good, the process is good.”
There is still some reason for optimism with Kimbrel. The right-hander has a FIP nearly two runs lower than his ERA and he has maintained elite strikeout numbers.
The Dodgers also have little incentive to remove Kimbrel from the closer role at this time. With a 17-game lead in the National League West, the division race is all but over. The Dodgers also own a six-game lead over the New York Mets for the top spot in the NL playoffs.
The club has been winning with Kimbrel being relied on in the ninth, so they likely see this as an opportunity to allow him to try to work out his issues before October. If Kimbrel can do that, they have another elite reliever for the postseason. If not, they make a change in the postseason similar to how they managed Kenley Jansen and the closer role in 2020.
Roberts has maintained confidence in Kimbrel
When previously discussing some of Kimbrel’s struggles throughout the season, Roberts has voiced confidence in the veteran and only once publicly criticized him.
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