NLCS scapegoat flees to Baltimore after destroying Phillies' World Series hopes

Closer Craig Kimbrel is moving to the AL East, leaving a path of destruction in his wake in Philadelphia.
Craig Kimbrel, Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four
Craig Kimbrel, Philadelphia Phillies v Arizona Diamondbacks - Game Four / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

Philadelphia Phillies fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

It was all but a foregone conclusion that Craig Kimbrel wouldn't be back in a Phillies uniform in 2024 after hitting free agency, but now it's official. The 35-year-old closer, who almost single-handedly torpedoed the Phillies 2023 postseason run, has reportedly signed a deal with the Baltimore Orioles and will head back to the AL East.

Per Ken Rosenthal, Kimbrel passed his physical on Wednesday afternoon, making the one-year, $13 million deal official.

Kimbrel's strong first half quickly faded

Despite having a solid start to his 2023 season with the Phillies, Kimbrel's lasting memory in Philadelphia will be his awful postseason outings in Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series when he blew up the defending NL champions' hope of securing a ticket to the World Series.

The much-decorated closer earned his ninth-career All-Star nod after a first half that saw him convert 14 saves, grab three holds and not blow a save opportunity. He did it with a .171 batting average against and a nasty 39.3 percent strikeout rate. He even earned his 400th career save on May 26.

Unfortunately, the veteran faded down the back half of the season. He went 3-5 and only converted nine out of 14 save opportunities. His strikeout rate plummeted to 27.8 percent, and he walked batters at a 10.5 percent clip.

Kimbrel was the epitome of nerve-wracking for Phillies fans. Little did we all know the worst was yet to come.

The wheels fell off for Kimbrel in the NLCS

Not to rehash bad memories, but after the Phillies looked to have a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLCS, Kimbrel's horrible ninth inning in Game 3 turned the tide and gave the pesky Arizona Diamondbacks life. He repeated the act the following day, blowing a 2-run lead in the eighth inning of Game 4 and taking the loss with three runs credited to the righty.

Obviously, Kimbrel wasn't the only reason the Phillies lost. He didn't make the bats go ice cold, but those two pivotal games in the desert set up the Diamondbacks' series comeback and sent the Phillies home much earlier than expected.

But now Kimbrel is someone else's problem. He returns to the AL East, where he spent three seasons with the Boston Red Sox. With the Orioles without an established closer after Félix Bautista's elbow surgery, Kimbrel will take over that mantle and cause a whole new fan base anxiety and feelings of soul-crushing despair.

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