Phillies’ Craig Kimbrel becomes 8th pitcher to reach 400 saves

ESPN News ServicesMay 26, 2023, 10:47 p.m. ET4 minute read

Craig Kimbrel hits 400 saves in win over Braves

Craig Kimbrel becomes just the 8th pitcher in MLB history to reach 400 saves in a win over the Braves.

ATLANTA — Craig Kimbrel had a feeling it would be a special night, so he wanted about 30 to 40 family and friends from Alabama to come see him achieve a rare milestone.

The closest pitcher became the eighth pitcher in major league history to make 400 saves as the Philadelphia Phillies beat the Atlanta Braves 6-4 on Friday.

“I’m glad it’s here in Atlanta,” said Kimbrel, who started his career with the Braves. “I’m glad the majority of my family is here to see it. To be able to enjoy it and enjoy it with them is awesome.”

Making his 730th career appearance, Kimbrel, 34, worked a scoreless ninth inning to earn his sixth save in six opportunities this season. Of the previous seven relievers to reach 400 saves, only Mariano Rivera (697 games), Trevor Hoffman (706) and Kenley Jansen (778) reached the milestone in less than 800 appearances.

Kimbrel, the 2011 NL Rookie of the Year, played his first five seasons in Atlanta, was a four-time All-Star with the Braves and still holds the franchise record with 186 saves. This is his first season with Philadelphia. In his last 15 games since April 16, Kimbrel has faced 54 batters and 26 strikeouts in 14 innings, but the right-hander has struggled at times this year with a 5.68 ERA.

Kimbrel grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, about a three-hour drive from Atlanta, and it was with the Braves that he established himself as one of the game’s most feared relievers. He was an eight-time All-Star and helped the Boston Red Sox win the 2018 World Series.

He said he never set out to break records or join exclusive rosters, but his career has been going pretty well.

“My goal is to show up and prepare to take those opportunities as much as possible,” Kimbrel said. “Always knowing that I was closing games, I was hoping to have 35-40 a year doing my job, and that’s about it. It’s one year at a time, one stoppage at a time.”

Brandon Marsh hit a two-run single in the sixth for Philadelphia.

Facing reliever Joe Jiménez (0-1) with the bases loaded, Marsh made it 4-3 with a single to left field that scored Nick Castellanos and JT Realmuto. The Phillies scored twice in the seventh against Lucas Luetge on Trea Turner’s RBI double and Bryce Harper’s sacrifice fly.

The NL-leading Braves fell to 31-20. Philadelphia, stuck in fourth place in the NL East after qualifying for the World Series last year, is 24-27. The Phillies are seven games behind Atlanta in the division standings.

For Kimbrel, the evening was special because he was able to celebrate with so many loved ones.

“They’ve been supporting me forever,” he said. “A lot of them were like, ‘It’s weird celebrating here in Atlanta. It brought back a lot of memories, hanging out with the same group of people in the tunnel after the game and catching up. »

He said he wasn’t even nervous coming out of the bullpen, and he closed the game by grounding Ronald Acuna Jr. to third with a runner.

“No, I was pretty boxed in,” Kimbrel said. “I mean, I’ve had a lot of chances to think about it. I’ve been sitting pretty close to this stage for a while now and I’ve just been able to throw the ball well lately. I was really just worried about getting the win tonight, and once the final was over I was able to relax.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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