Craig Kimbrel had a bad outing Thursday.
He actually allowed a hit.
The No. 58-ranked player on our MLBRank Top 100, Kimbrel has appeared in 33 games in 2017, and 19 of his 26 one-inning appearances have gone 1-2-3. He got the save in Boston's 6-3 win over the Twins and is 22-for-23 in save opportunities and has a 1.04 ERA.
Those numbers don't even tell the whole story of his dominance. He has fanned 51.2 percent of the batters he has faced, and right-handed batters are 2-for-64 against him. I checked out those two. They actually came in the same inning, against the Orioles on June 3. Mark Trumbo hit a 1-2 curveball up the middle for a base hit and Trey Mancini hit a 3-2 fastball off the wall in right for a double.
Kimbrel's strikeout rate is the second-highest ever (minimum 30 innings pitched), behind only Aroldis Chapman's 52.5 percent figure in 2014. Only two others top even 45 percent: Kimbrel in 2012 (50.2 percent) and Carter Capps in 2015 (49.2 percent). The thing is: Kimbrel may not even be having the best relief season of 2017.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen entered Thursday's game with a 0.83 ERA and a 44.1 percent strikeout rate that ranks eighth best all time. He also has issued only one walk against 52 strikeouts and is 17-for-17 in save chances (he also has four wins). Who's having the better season? Who would you want closing out games?
I might actually give the slight edge to Jansen for one very important reason come October: He has proved he can get more than three outs with great success. He has gone at least four outs eight times this year and has pitched 11 2/3 innings in those games with no runs, four hits and 18 strikeouts. We all remember that three-inning scoreless appearance in the National League Championship Series last October (although don't forget he did have a four-run blowup against the Nationals). Kimbrel, meanwhile, has gone four-plus outs five times, allowed runs in two of those outings and four hits in 7 2/3 innings. Of course, he has also struck out 20 batters.
So maybe it's still more of a coin flip. On the heels of Zach Britton's 47-for-47 season in saves last year, with a 0.54 ERA, we don't want to get carried away and say these two are necessarily having the best relief seasons ever (not to mention when closers pitched many more innings), but they're certainly having two of the most statistically dominant seasons.
We'd be talking about the Nationals' bullpen again except Trea Turner broke his wrist. Here's Jon Jay's two-out, two-run double that capped a three-run rally off Blake Treinen to give the Cubs a 5-4 victory:
So the Nationals' bullpen still stinks worse than the clubhouse at old Sportsman's Park after a 100-degree day in 1935 when the players still wore wool uniforms. Unfortunately, the worse news was a Pedro Strop fastball that rode in on Turner and broke his wrist, the same injury Freddie Freeman suffered. Turner had a dynamic June, posting a .370 OBP with 22 steals -- the most in a month since Jose Reyes had 23 in August 2007 -- living up to his preseason hype as one of the game's most exciting players.
The Nationals have a big enough lead in a terrible division and enough star power that losing Turner isn't a major issue, but the frustrations continue to build with this injury, Adam Eaton's season-ending torn ACL and the bullpen blues. The Nationals now have six losses in games they have led after eight innings. This was the most painful one yet.
Play of the day. Don't you wish we had video of Willie Mays crashing into walls making catches like this one? We'll have to settle for Kevin Pillar.
Pillar's catch was not the story of this game, however. The last time we saw Ubaldo Jimenez pitching in Toronto it was the 11th inning of the wild-card game and everyone wondered why he was out there instead of Zach Britton. He promptly gave up the walk-off home run to Edwin Encarnacion, but this game turned out much better as he tossed eight scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory for the Orioles. This from a guy who entered with a 7.26 ERA and 16 home runs allowed in 65 2/3 innings. Goes to show that any pitcher in the majors is capable of a good game on any given night. Strange series as all three games were low-scoring: The Blue Jays tossed a shutout Wednesday and the Orioles won the opener 3-1.
The Toronto offense continues to scuffle -- 14th in the AL in runs. Troy Tulowitzki is terrible. Pillar has struggled after a hot April. Josh Donaldson is in a 7-for-50 skid. Words you never thought would be written: Where would the Jays be without Justin Smoak?
Ichiro play of the day. The man is 43 years old:
Fan of the day. We don't do much on the Padres. So here's a Padres fan who sticks behind the team, win or lose:
Finally ... Clayton Kershaw is good again. Were you worried after that four-homer game? He was locked in against the Angels, striking out 12 in seven innings. Impressively, he did that with a super-efficient 93 pitches. The run he allowed was unearned thanks to some sloppy defense. Another reason for the Diamondbacks and Rockies to worry that the Dodgers are looking scary good right now: Joc Pederson is heating up, as he crushed another home run, his sixth in 17 games in June. Also: Yasiel Puig is on pace for 30 home runs, and he's hitting eighth in the lineup.
Of course, everybody is hitting home runs these days. The Mets and Dodgers each hit 50 home runs this month, the first time two National League teams have done that in the same month. The Brewers hit six home runs against the Reds as those two teams combined for a Great American Ball Park record of 17 home runs in one series. Three more players had two-homer games -- Joey Votto, Jonathan Villar and Carlos Correa -- and we've had at least one multihomer game every day this month except June 27 and 72 in total this season. Pederson's home run was the 1,068th of the month across the majors, one short of the record set in May 2000 for most in a month. I'll predict that record will be broken Friday.