The Chicago Cubs thought they won the lottery when they signed Craig Kimbrel midway through the regular season. The boost to their bullpen seemed a flawless addition at first glance, but he's failed to live up to expectations throughout the season.
And his struggles came to light once again on Saturday, when he blew a save against the Cardinals in what was arguably the most pivotal game of the season for the Cubs. Despite being handed the ball with a one-run lead, it took just two Cardinal batters, and two total pitches, to see that lead turn into a deficit.
He threw just two pitches before the Cubs were once again trailing by a run, giving up back-to-back shots to Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong. Kimbrel, who has battled injury this year, had a 5.95 ERA entering Saturday's outing (it's surely now over 6), and following the two home runs, he's now surrendered a career-high nine homers.
What's most concerning about that is the timeframe, as Kimbrel has surrendered that damage in just 20.2 innings of work. To compare, last year he allowed seven home runs (then a career-high) across 62.1 innings. That equates to a 1.0 HR/9, whereas in 2019, he's at an egregious 3.2 HR/9.
Those are numbers that, if the Cubs make it, forecast disaster in the postseason.
Saturday marked his third blown save of the year, and it became clear that he's not ready for the high-leverage moments. Tonight's outing was as important of a regular-season situation as the Cubs' closer will ever face, and he managed to blow up royally.
Whether or not the team chooses to demote him, it's clear that Cubs fans will be holding their breath when he's toeing the rubber in a close game.
It's no guarantee that the Cubs make the postseason, and if they miss out, they will remember this game as a turning point in their season.