When the Atlanta Braves have a close lead heading into the ninth inning, their decision has been easy and confident dating back to 2010 when Craig Kimbrel earned his first career save. From that point on, Kimbrel never looked back and has been arguably the top closer in Major League Baseball over the past few seasons.
Atlanta earned a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks Friday night, and called on Kimbrel to notch yet another save. He entered the game with two outs and a runner on first in the eighth inning and struck out his former teammate Martin Prado looking to end the frame. Kimbrel headed back out for the ninth and got both Aaron Hill and David Peralta to fly out, then Tuffy Gosewich popped out to end the game.
With Friday's save, Kimbrel passed former Braves pitcher John Smoltz for the most saves in team history, a record that had been held since 2004. Smoltz, who was an eight time All-Star, along with winning the Cy Young award once in his career, will likely join his former teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine in the Hall of Fame after they both get inducted this July.
Kimbrel captured his 16th save of the season in 18 chances. Entering Friday night's game in Arizona, Kimbrel was tied atop the list with Smoltz with 154 saves. He went on to pitch a perfect 1 1/3 innings to earn save number 155. It was only the third time in his young career that he recorded a four-out save. Kimbrel not only broke the record, but was very efficient doing so, as he logged his 155th career save in just 172 opportunities.
Kimbrel has been very consistent as he has recorded at least 40 saves in each of the last three seasons, and finished 2013 with 50 saves. During these past three seasons, the Atlanta closer has accumulated 148 saves, and is currently on pace to have a terrific 2014 campaign.
With the win, not only did Kimbrel take over the number one spot on the Braves all-time saves record list, but Atlanta moved back into sole possession of first place in the National League East.
Friday's save also came just nine days after Kimbrel's 26th birthday, which may spell bad news for opposing teams that trail the Braves heading into the ninth inning. At such a young age, assuming he avoids injuries and stays healthy, Kimbrel could potentially go on to set more records and cement himself as one of the best closers in Major League Baseball history.
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