ATLANTA -- As Craig Kimbrel journeyed toward a Major League rookie record 46 saves last year, he proved that he is much more than a hard-throwing hurler who can impress with radar-gun readings. But there are still instances when he can remind opponents about how effective his curveball can truly be.
The latest occurrence was during the ninth inning of Saturday night's 2-1 win over the Brewers. After throwing three fastball strikes on the way to retiring Carlos Gomez to open the inning, Kimbrel started to struggle with his fastball. He issued a four-pitch walk to Ryan Braun and later missed the zone with four straight fastballs against Corey Hart.
But with the bases loaded and one out, Kimbrel preserved the Braves' one-run lead with the assistance of catcher Brian McCann, who began calling for more curveballs.
"I thought Craig had a better idea where his curveball was going tonight than his fastball," McCann said. "That kind of became his heater at the end."
With no room for error, Kimbrel threw a first-pitch fastball to pinch-hitter George Kottaras and then used two sliders to conclude a five-pitch strikeout. The reigning National League Rookie of the Year then finished the game with a three-pitch strikeout against Mat Gamel, who saw two curveballs and then missed a 97-mph fastball to end the game.
"If [Kimbrel has] got both of them going, the guy doesn't have much of a shot," McCann said. "It seemed like once he got bases loaded, he bared down and made some great pitches."
Kimbrel did not make an appearance as the Braves lost each of their first four games to open the season. But aided by the club's recent surge, he entered Sunday ranked second in the NL with four saves.