When Craig Kimbrel was signed earlier this month, I talked with friends about the benefits this would have on the Cubs bullpen. Besides the obvious advantage of having a lock-down closer, the move put relievers like Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop in more familiar and natural positions of pitching in the 7th and 8th innings. However, there is one thing that is harder quantify — the energy injection that Kimbrel brings.
As Kimbrel entered the game yesterday to close the 9th inning, to the tune “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the Wrigley faithful went freaking bananas! “Definitely gives you goose bumps as a player,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. And that my friends, is what a lock-down closer brings, the energy of a thousand Red Bulls…and a swagger. A swagger that says – this game is over, you can hoist the ‘W’ flag!
I really haven’t felt that “closer energy” for the Cubs since flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman was taking the field in 2016. That hard to quantify element, plus the confidence that Kimbrel brings, gives that little extra boost to the other players and can make all the difference – even at the professional level.
Maybe instead of “Dirty Craig,” Kimbrel’s nickname should be The Red Bull, because he brings the energy, along with that awesome ginger beard! Hey, I only want 5 percent when he signs that big endorsement deal.
So, here we are at 81 games played, halfway through the season, and the Cubs holding a one-game-lead in the division…cue up the Guns N’ Roses, it’s going to an interesting second half!
Our photographer, John Antonoff, was at Wrigley yesterday and captured some winning Kimbrel! Go Cubs!