Former Phillies closer picks up where he left off in the NLCS with brutal debut

Some things never change.
Baltimore Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel made his Baltimore Orioles debut and blew the save on Tuesday
Baltimore Orioles closer Craig Kimbrel made his Baltimore Orioles debut and blew the save on Tuesday / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

Former Philadelphia Phillies’ closer Craig Kimbrel may be with a new team in 2024 and have a fresh start, but some things just never change.

On Monday, he made his first appearance of the season for the Baltimore Orioles with his team up 4-3. He overpoweringly struck out two batters but then promptly blew the save, giving Orioles fans the full Kimbrel experience in his debut with the club.

Fortunately for Kimbrel, his team managed to pick him up in the end and give him the win with a walk-off two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Phillies fans all too familiar with Kimbrel's ninth-inning adventures

Last season, Kimbrel was one of the key cogs in the Phillies’ bullpen when many of their arms were struggling to start the 2023 season. Not only did he provide stability to the relief corps, but he was practically unbeatable, going the entire first half of the season without blowing a save.

However, things went a lot differently in the second half for Kimbrel, especially during the stretch run when he struggled mightily to close out games. Overall, he still posted some solid numbers, finishing with an 8-6 record with 23 saves, a 3.26 ERA, a 1.04 WHIP, and a whopping 94 strikeouts in just 69 innings pitched.

But it was in the playoffs, in particular the NLCS against the Arizona Diamondbacks, that Kimbrel gave Phillies fans a lasting impression they'll never forget. His meltdown in Games 3 and 4 essentially became the turning point in the series that paved the way for the Diamondbacks to come back and eliminate the Phillies from World Series contention.

In the end, Kimbrel was not re-signed by the Phillies and was picked up by the Orioles during free agency to help replace injured closer Félix Bautista, who underwent Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2024 season.

One thing is for sure: Kimbrel can’t hurt the Phillies in their quest for a championship title this season, as he is now someone else’s problem. On the other hand, Phillies hitters probably can’t wait to face him, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.