Jake Arrieta was not the only Chicago Cubs pitcher to have a great performance in the team’s 5-1 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday.
Opening Day for the Chicago Cubs did not go as expected, as they lost 5-3 to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates. The loss was encapsulated by a two-hit performance by the Cubs batters and the 11 walks issued by the pitching staff. Things could only go up for the Cubs, and that was evident on Saturday.
In their second game of the season, the Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-1 thanks to a strong showing by starting pitcher Jake Arrieta. In his return, Arrieta struck out five batters while allowing one earned run in six innings of work. Even though he did get the win, there was one pitcher who caught the attention of Cubs fans.
Of course, we are talking about closer Craig Kimbrel.
Cubs: Craig Kimbrel strikes out the side in Chicago’s win over Pirates Saturday
With the Cubs holding the lead, manager David Ross called Kimbrel from the bullpen to close out the game. Fans were a bit apprehensive, given how disastrous his Cubs tenure has been for the past two seasons. But, he silenced the critics with a lights out top of the ninth frame.
Kimbrel struck out first baseman Colin Moran on three straight pitches, shortstop Kevin Newman on seven and outfielder Gregory Polanco on six to secure the victory for the Cubbies.
The closer with the unique pitching stance was brought into Chicago with high expectations, considering he had just won the World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2018. Afters a months-long delay, Kimbrel signed with the Cubs on a three-year, $43 million contract. But the holdout did not do wonders for the veteran closer. Kimbrel boasted a 6.53 ERA through 23 games in 2019, while recording a 5.28 ERA through 18 contests in 2020.
This spring, Cubs fans were far from impressed with Kimbrel’s outings in exhibition contests. Through 6.2 innings of work (seven games), Kimbrel recorded six strikeouts while surrendering nine earned runs on nine hits, giving him a 12.15 ERA. Those numbers would not instill confidence in any fanbase.
This was a better late than never performance from Kimbrel, who starts off his 2021 campaign on the right foot.