Craig Kimbrel in for the Braves to close out a 2-0 lead and post the first win of the season.
I like the Atlanta pen and hope Fredi Gonzalez sticks to his stated plan of having Kimbrel and Jonny Venters share closer duties. It gives the Braves a huge tactical advantage -- they can match up Venters against lefties and Kimbrel against righties in the eighth and ninth innings, whichever pitcher fits best. Considering teams don't carry more than five bench players these days, and NL teams have to hold pinch-hitters for the pitchers, it makes it difficult for the opponent to counteract.
It didn't matter today. Venters did his job with three groundballs. Kimbrel did his job, striking out Mike Morse with an inside fastball and Ankiel looking with a fastball at the knees. Six up, six down.
Billy Wagner has retired, but the two youngsters (Venters is in his second season, Kimbrel a rookie in his first full season) should pick up the slack. Venters converted to relief in 2010 after lackluster results starting in the minors and became one of the top setup men in the majors as a rookie (83 IP, 1 HR, 1.95 ERA). Kimbrel destroyed hitters in his 20 big league innings, striking out 40. No, that's not a misprint. The Braves will have to see how Venters responds to a heavy workload in 2010 (79 games), but if he holds up I think Atlanta's 1-2 punch at the back of the pen is as good as any in the NL.