After the tough 2-1 loss in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Philadelphia Phillies closer Craig Kimbrel faced the music, wearing his heart on his sleeve in front of the microphones and cameras.
While it's easy to point fingers and lay blame after a loss like this, the closer who blows the game usually takes the heat, especially from the fans. An obviously dejected Kimbrel didn't shy away from taking the blame on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters after the game, his somber explanation of the ninth-inning walk-off hit from Diamondbacks' Ketel Marte was straightforward.
"Just trying to get another strike, and he put enough wood on it to get a hit drive in the run," Kimbrel explained. "The game plan against all of them in that inning obviously was to get ahead and put them away, and I just wasn't able to do it today."
He certainly wasn't able to get ahead, throwing three straight balls to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to open the frame. He battled back to 3-2 before issuing the leadoff walk, followed promptly by a Gurriel stolen base. He then surrendered a single to Pavin Smith after falling behind 2-0.
Kimbrel got ahead of Emmanuel Rivera before inducing a ground ball that led to Trea Turner's temporary game-saving defensive gem. The Phillies' closer was sure to laud his shortstop for the effort, saying, "Trea made a ridiculous play there to keep us in it."
He then lost Geraldo Perdomo, walking the Diamondbacks' ninth-hitter on six pitches, setting up the final nail in the coffin for the Phillies. Despite his long track record and impressive résumé, the 35-year-old veteran admits it gets tense out on the mound in those pressure-packed situations.
"I mean, it always tightens up a little bit," Kimbrel said. "Obviously, with the stolen base and trying to keep them from scoring. You know, it always always tightens it up a little bit."
Ironically, Kimbrel got ahead of Marte with a fastball over the inner half before Arizona's best hitter in this NLCS iced the walk-off victory with a single to center and pulled the Diamondbacks back into the series.
"You know, I got ahead," Kimbrel said. "I felt like I made some pitches to try to get us out of it and, you know, some days you get them, some days you don't, and today just wasn't my day."
As challenging as these types of losses can be, Kimbrel has enough experience to know that it's not the end of the world and there's no reason to panic.
"We played a good game today," Kimbrel said. "It always sucks to lose, but we played a tough game, and we're going to come back tomorrow and expect to win tomorrow."
A nine-time All-Star, World Series champion, former Rookie of the Year and three-time Reliever of the Year award winner, he's done it all over his 14-year career, especially in the playoffs.
With 28 postseason appearances, this was only his second loss, and he has been perfect in four games for the Phillies this postseason. He has secured three saves and had only allowed one hit before Thursday.
Even though it didn't end the way the Phillies would've liked, there's little reason to doubt Kimbrel.