Cubs News: Craig Kimbrel is trending in the right direction

(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images)
(Photo by Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images) /

Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel has had two good outings in a row of late.

When the Cubs inked Craig Kimbrel to a three-year, $45 million contract they thought they were getting the elite closer that he had been virtually his entire career. That has not been the case at all up to this point.

Kimbrel was signed mid-season in 2019 and was not good. His control and giving up the home run ball culminated in a 6.53 ERA across 23 appearances. In 2017 Kimbrel pitched in 67 games and only gave up six home runs. Then in 2018, he pitched in 63 games and only gave up seven home runs. In his 23 games of 2019, Kimbrel gave up nine long-balls, the most of his career with while making his fewest appearances ever in one year. It was clear something was off.

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Coming into 2020 the Cubs were hoping Kimbrel would return to form. After his first few appearances of the year, though, it seemed the right-hander was still off.

In his first appearance of the year against the Reds, Kimbrel was awful. Only getting one out and walking four batters and hitting one before David Ross pulled him. The veteran threw 15 breaking balls and did not induce even one swing by Reds batters. Clearly, there was an issue, for the Reds hitters to be sitting on the fastball.

During his next appearance, Kimbrel wasn’t himself again as the Pirates hammered two home runs against him. Hitters were still sitting fastball and not worried about the breaking pitch. Kimbrel is at his best when hitters have to respect the breaking ball and when his fastball velocity is up. Of course, we haven’t seen him do those things consistently in a Cubs uniform.

In Kimbrel’s last three outings, signs seem to be pointing in the right direction. In two outings last weekend against the Brewers, he did not allow a hit, walking one and striking out four.  Both of those games the Cubs were trailing late so it was not a save situation.

On Wednesday Ross sent Kimbrel out to try and get the save in game two of a doubleheader against the Cardinals and he did not disappoint. In a one-run game against a heated division foe, Kimbrel had everything working. He struck out three allowing one baserunner on a hit batter.

Kimbrel’s fastball was sitting comfortably at 97-98 mph. Four of those fastballs were above 98 mph and he topped out at 98.7 mph. He was getting swings and misses on the breaking ball as well.

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This was the best Kimbrel has looked in a Cubs uniform. Chicago will need Kimbrel to keep this up for them to make run deep into October this year.