Closer Craig Kimbrel made his Cubs debut on Thursday afternoon as manager Joe Maddon called upon him to protect a 9-7 lead in the ninth inning against the Braves. Kimbrel struck out Brian McCann looking and induced a ground out from Johan Camargo for two quick outs. After Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled, Kimbrel walked Dansby Swanson to put the tying run on base. Kimbrel saw his way out of trouble when Freddie Freeman grounded out to Anthony Rizzo down the first base line. Kimbrel was slow to cover the first base bag, so Rizzo had to dive to touch the base before Freeman.
The Cubs and Kimbrel agreed to a three-year, $43 million contract earlier this month. No one bit on Kimbrel as a free agent during the offseason, purportedly due to his struggles during the 2018 postseason with the Red Sox as well as his age and slightly declining velocity. Kimbrel’s first pitch on Thursday registered at 97.6 MPH, according to Statcast. He averaged 96.5 MPH on his fastball overall against the Braves today. That number should rise as he gets some more games under his belt.
With his Astros trailing the Tigers 2-1, catcher Robinson Chirinos began his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth a triple shy of the cycle. He doubled in the second inning, singled in the fourth, and hit a solo homer in the seventh. Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel both struck out, leaving the Astros’ fate in the hands of Chirinos against Joe Jiménez. After working the count to 2-1, Chirinos slapped an 85 MPH slider to the gap in right-center field. A diving Travis Demeritte could not come up with the ball, but center fielder Harold Castro fired the ball back in to Gordon Beckham, who then made a perfect throw to Dawel Lugo at third base. Chirinos was tagged out for the final out of the game. No triple, no cycle. The Astros lost 2-1.
Chirinos was attempting to become the first Astro to hit for the cycle since Brandon Barnes on July 19, 2013 against the Mariners.
The Astros entered Wednesday’s game as the largest favorite in 15 seasons, according to ESPN’s David Purdum. The Astros were -500 per Caesars Sportsbook. Other sportsbooks had them at -550. So the Tigers’ win was quite the upset.
Justin Verlander went the distance in the loss. The only blemishes on his line were solo homers to Ronny Rodríguez in the fifth and John Hicks in the ninth. They were the only hits he allowed while walking none and striking out 11.