Red Sox are in ALCS despite Kimbrel’s meltdown

Alan Greenwood

Statistics, particularly those that have been amended and re-amended into irrelevancy, should be taken with a shaker of salt.

Consider the save with which Craig Kimbrel padded his resume Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. Despite their closer’s ninth-inning buffoonery, the Red Sox are riding a four-game post-season win streak at the Big Ballpark in the Bronx, dating to Oct. 19, 2004, also known as Bloody Sock Night. They move on to face the defending world champion Houston Astros for the American League pennant.

Kimbrel came within the shadow of an eyelash of flushing the 2018 Red Sox season right down the

hopper.

As someone who is considered a master of his craft by those disinterested in details, Kimbrel should do the honorable thing and refuse a statistical bauble that years from now someone will see and believe, “Boy that Craig Kimbrel. What a tough cookie he was.”

Coming on to open the ninth inning with a 4-1 lead, Kimbrel quickly began to crumble. He walked Aaron Judge on four pitches; that will go down as an unofficial intentional walk, since Judge has been known to hit a baseball the length of a continent.

The rest of Kimbrel’s meltdown, which nearly forced a fifth game in the American League Division Series, was anything but intentional unless Mr. Chicken Wing is heavily invested in antacids.

In the public interest, the particulars of this near-fatal train-wreck will be

summarized:

A single and a walk sandwiched a strikeout, loading the bases. Neil Walker, a terrifying .219 batsman during the regular season, took a pitch off the right foot, forcing in a run.

Gary Sanchez swatted a drive to the left-field warning track for a sacrifice fly. Make that 4-3 with two outs and two on.

Gleyber Torres tapped a weak ground ball past the third-base side of the mound.

Eduardo Nunez charged the ball and made an off-balance throw that first baseman Steve Pearce scooped with a maximum-length stretch.

Torres was out by a gnat, as confirmed by replay review.

Cue the celebration.

If a drop of champagne found its way past Kimbrel’s lips, he should have spit it out.

For spiking New England’s blood pressure to dangerous levels, Kimbrel received a save.

You want to reward someone for the win that sent the Red Sox on to the American League Championship Series?

Give that save to Chris Sale, who made his first playoff relief appearance in forever and breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth.

Give it to manager Alex Cora for having the imagination, not to mention guts, in handing the ball to Sale.

Give it to Nunez for a great play. Ditto for Pearce.

The cheers go to them.

As for Kimbrel, no cheers, no boos.

A long, still silence will do.