Craig Kimbrel stole the show in the ninth for the Atlanta Braves as he set the major league rookie record with his 41st save of the year. He struck out two Washington Nationals in the final frame to secure the 3-1 final and even the series.
After the Braves rebounded for eight innings from the pounding they took from the Nationals Tuesday, Kimbrel gave a performance that has come to define his rookie year by overpowering all three hitters he faced in a close game.
He first struck out Jason Werth swinging to begin the inning and then got Ryan Zimmerman to fly out to Jason Heyward for the second out. The radar gun then hit triple digits when he struck out Michael Morse for the final out, securing his record 41st save.
"I have to thank my team for playing so well this season, because you can’t really have this many opportunities on a team that doesn’t win. Hopefully we keep on winning," Kimbrel said.
Kimbrel's save, however, was not the only thing going for the Braves Wednesday night, as their bats woke up a little bit from what was practically a second All-Star break.
"I’ve got my legs under me now and I feel that I can get the bat started and be able to use my legs to get the bat where it needs to be, as opposed to just trying to use all upper body," Jones said. "Hopefully we’ll see a few more fly out before the season’s over."
Derek Lowe had apparently taken notes, because in the next inning, he hit his first homer of his career, a liner over the left field wall.
"That was fun, I’m not going to lie to you. I’ve never hit a home run – ever, since I was a Little Leaguer. That’s the first ball I’ve hit over a fence in 38 years of existence," Lowe said. "The home runs I’d hit as a kid, they’d just roll and they’d kick it around. But I’ve never hit a ball, ever, over a fence."
Dan Uggla would later drive in Martin Prado from third on an infield hit for the last of the Braves' three runs.
Lowe, meanwhile, pieced together another solid late-season start. He retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced before giving up his only run on a solo home run by Morse. Lowe struck out six and gave up three hits in six innings.
"He’s a guy that’s been there in the postseason and been there in these big games. So as we go down the stretch, get him rolling and get him out there," Fredi Gonzalez said.
Matt Diaz also picked up two hits in his return to the Braves after being traded from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Braves kept pace with the Philadelphia Phillies to remain 7.5 games out of first place. They also remain 8.5 games in front of the St. Louis Cardinals and nine games in front of the San Francisco Giants in the Wild Card race.
Thursday's 7:10 EDT series finale will see Tim Hudson (13-8, 3.10 ERA) take the hill opposite Washington's Chien-Ming Wang (2-2, 3.82 ERA).
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