6/8/2014 4:36 P.M. ET
Kimbrel nearly takes at-bat amid record-setting night
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- In the midst of his record-setting four-out save on Friday night at Chase Field, Braves closer Craig Kimbrel came within two batters of doing something he's never accomplished in the Major Leagues: going up to the plate to hit.
Kimbrel seemed perplexed as the situation neared in the top of the ninth inning of a game the Braves won 5-2 over the D-backs.
"I told him, 'Just grab a bat,'" Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Kimbrel passed John Smoltz to go into first place on the all-time franchise list with his 155th save. A one-inning reliever since he came up in 2010, Kimbrel was asked to close down the D-backs in a rare four-out save situation for only the third time in his career. Smoltz, who spent most of his 21 seasons as a starter, did it 35 times.
Gonzalez made a pitching change in the eighth for starter Julio Teheran, flipping Alex Wood into the seventh spot and second baseman Ramiro Pena into the ninth. As it turned out, he used three pitchers that inning. He brought in Kimbrel to face one hitter and the right-hander struck out former teammate Martin Prado looking with a runner on second to end the inning.
Kimbrel was obviously locked into the game and was scheduled to bat ninth in the ninth inning. The Braves sent seven men to plate against D-backs reliever Trevor Cahill, adding two runs on four hits to turn a 3-2 squeaker into a comfortable 5-2 cushion.
But there was a moment there with two outs and runners on first and third when the 26-year-old Kimbrel thought he might hit for the first time in five big league seasons and 254 relief appearances.
"It kind of confused me, really," Kimbrel said. "[Gonzalez] told me to go grab a bat and I was just standing at the bat rack completely lost. I had no idea whose helmet I should grab or whose [batting] gloves. It kind of took my mind away from it a little bit, which was helpful and nice."
Evan Gattis grounded into an inning-ending force out and the moment passed. Kimbrel then went out and retired the D-backs in order to record his big save, his 16th of the season.
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.