When the Cubs were unable to pad their lead into the later innings yesterday, I started thinking we were gonna get a rare Andrew Chafin closing opportunity. The match-up wasn’t necessarily ideal with the heavily-right-handed middle of the Cardinals’ order, but Ryan Tepera had handled the 8th, and Chafin is that other highly-trusted late-inning guy, almost exclusive of match-up. And since Craig Kimbrel was forced into Saturday night’s win, his second appearance in a row, I didn’t think he’d be out there for a third night.
But he was. And he dominated, as per the usual:
Despite the three days in a row, it was just a normal, routine, snappy closing session for Kimbrel, who’d thrown only a few pitches the night before (though getting all warm and then coming into a game is still usage). In so doing, Kimbrel had saved the whole sweep for the Cubs, and it continued on a streak that has put him in rarified air:
In each of his last 7 appearances, Craig Kimbrel of the @Cubs has notched a save without allowing a hit.
It's the third time in his career he has done that in 7+ straight appearances. No other pitcher has had more than one such streak since saves became an official stat in 1969.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) June 14, 2021
That’s nuts right there. Not just that Kimbrel has done it three times, but it’s nuts that no other closer has done it more than once. The implication, obviously, is that going 7+ converted saves without allowing a hit is extremely difficult to pull off. And Kimbrel is on a streak like that right now. He last allowed a hit on May 26 against the Pirates – a leadoff double by Ben Gamel, remember that? – so he’s thereafter recorded 7.1 innings without allowing a hit. It’s like he’s in the 8th inning of a no-hitter! You should stand up!
I’m going to presume that Kimbrel will be down today, which means he’ll enter tomorrow having not given up an earned run in a month. Over that stretch, Kimbrel has posted a 48.8% strikeout rate and a 4.9% walk rate (holy crap). He’s pitching at his best level in a decade (and that intervening decade was damn good!), he’s got the third best ERA in baseball (0.66), the second best FIP (1.33), and is tied for the most WAR (1.5).