ST. LOUIS -- When Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez called upon closer Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the eighth inning of Sunday afternoon's 5-2 win over the Cardinals, Kimbrel provided a glimpse of what he could do during the postseason.
Kimbrel needed just two pitches to end the eighth inning with a Yadier Molina groundout. Then, after entering the unfamiliar territory of the dugout, he returned to the mound to throw nine more pitches in a perfect ninth. This was his first multi-inning performance since he notched the only other four-out save of his career last Sept. 5 against the Rockies.
"It's a little different sitting in the dugout," Kimbrel said. "I found myself talking and joking around. I was like, 'Wait, I still have three more outs to get.' I was able to get back in the zone and get one, two, three."
Kimbrel said the Braves had told him during the game to be prepared to pitch in the eighth inning. His chance came after left-hander Luis Avilan surrendered two hits and allowed a run that cut St. Louis' deficit to three runs.
After confirming Avilan was healthy, Gonzalez said his decision was influenced by Monday's off-day and the fact Kimbrel had pitched just once over the previous six days.
"We just wanted to get Kimbrel four outs," Gonzalez said. "I didn't want to use the other right-handers in that situation. It was just perfect timing. He hadn't pitched since [Wednesday in] New York. He had three days off. You feel pretty good with him against Molina, instead of trying to bring in somebody else against [Luis] Ayala, [Jordan] Walden or one of those guys in that situation."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less