ATLANTA -- Braves rookie closer Craig Kimbrel has already established himself as one of the game's top relievers. Now he can say that he has experienced more success than any other rookie closer in Major League history, too.
With a scoreless ninth inning in Wednesday night's 3-1 win over the Nationals at Turner Field, Kimbrel notched a Major League rookie record with his 41st save. Kimbrel broke Rangers closer Neftali Feliz's record of 40 saves set in 2010.
"I thank my team for playing so well this season," Kimbrel said. "You can't really have this many opportunities on a team that doesn't win. Hopefully, we keep on winning."
Kimbrel made history with a swinging strikeout of Michael Morse on a 100-mph fastball. He recorded the first two outs on a punchout of Jayson Werth and a flyout by Ryan Zimmerman.
"That was pretty cool," he said. "I would have been fine with three groundouts or three popouts. But I guess it's pretty cool to do it on a strikeout."
|1. Craig Kimbrel, Braves||2011||41|
|2. Neftali Feliz, Rangers||2010||40|
|3. Kazuhiro Sasaki, Mariners||2000||37|
|4. Todd Worrell, Cardinals||1986||36|
|5. Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox||2006||35|
The 23-year-old was happy to break the record at Turner Field instead of on the Braves' recent road trip, where Atlanta's final two games against the Mets at Citi Field were postponed because of Hurricane Irene.
"When those last two were cancelled in New York, I thought it would be kind of cool to do it at home," he said.
This has been a memorable season for Kimbrel, who earned his first All-Star selection in July. The right-hander has been successful with 41 of his 46 save opportunities.
His save Wednesday gave him 33 consecutive appearances without allowing a run, spanning 33 2/3 innings. He's allowed just 12 hits and issued nine walks in that stretch. He's also struck out 60 batters and is 23-for-23 in save opportunities during that time.
"I'm just going out there each time and try to do my job," said Kimbrel. "I'm not trying to think about what I've done in the past or what's ahead of me or anything. I'm just thinking outing by outing."
However, the numbers don't end there for the right-hander, who recorded one save last season and . Kimbrel, who was the National League's Rookie of the Month in June, leads all Major League relievers with a whopping 107 strikeouts. Forty-two percent of the hitters he's faced this season have gone down via strikeout.
By comparison, All-Star pitcher Jair Jurrjens has recorded 17 fewer strikeouts despite pitching 152 innings.
"It's really amazing how big of strides he's made since last year," said third baseman Chipper Jones of Kimbrel, who was with the team last season for 21 games and qualified for rookie status since he pitched fewer than 50 innings. "Up and down last year, struggled with the control. To have really fine-tuned everything between then and now is really quite commendable.
"It helps that you throw 98 [mph]. But he's mastered two pitches. And when you throw 98 and can throw a slider off of it 90 [mph], it's tough to hit."
Kimbrel also became the fastest Braves pitcher to reach 100 career strikeouts this season, needing just 59 1/3 innings to accomplish the feat. John Rocker had previously held the mark, taking 70 innings to record his 100th punchout during the 1998-99 seasons.
Chris Cox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.