Chris Young’s one-out home run off Kimbrel in the ninth inning provided the D-backs a lead they would preserve on the way to avoiding a three-game sweep with a 3-2 win over the Braves on Thursday night.
Kimbrel retired Aaron Hill to open the ninth and got ahead of Young with a 1-2 count before the Arizona outfielder hit the seventh pitch of the at-bat — a 97-mph fastball — over the left-center-field wall.
This was the first home run Kimbrel allowed since surrendering a walk-off shot to Marlins second baseman Omar Infante after Chipper Jones lost a ball in the lights at Sun Life Stadium on Sept. 19, 2011. It was also the first run the dominant closer allowed since May 4.
Since allowing that run, Kimbrel had surrendered three hits and issued just two walks while recording 28 strikeouts in 17 innings before Thursday.
The Braves stranded 10 runners and went hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position. Still, while winning the first two games of this series, they erased some of the sting created when they lost the final two games of this past weekend’s series in Boston.
The Braves were clinging to a 2-0 lead until Jair Jurrjens saw his determined effort blemished by Jason Kubel’s game-tying two-run double. The first-pitch changeup that Kubel drilled to the right-center-field wall proved to be the only costly mistake made by Jurrjens, who allowed two runs and six hits in 5 2-3 innings.
Before determining how aggressively they will pursue top target Zack Greinke or other starting pitchers on the trade market, the Braves want to get a feel for what to expect from Jurrjens, who spent most of the past two months attempting to right himself with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Jurrjens was not nearly as impressive in this outing as he had been when he returned to the Majors to limit the Red Sox to one run over 7 2-3 innings last week. But with his fastball consistently sticking between 88-90 mph, he efficiently limited the D-backs to four hits over the first four innings.
Kubel created the D-backs’ first threat of the night when he hit a double to begin the second inning. After a walk to Miguel Montero put runners on the corners with one out, Jason Heyward caught Aaron Hill’s fly ball in right field before unleashing a strong pinpoint throw that denied Kubel’s attempt to score.
In the midst of the most impressive month of his young career, Heyward did not experience any success against Trevor Bauer, the talented D-backs starter who was making his much-anticipated Major League debut.
Bauer pitched out of trouble after Freddie Freeman’s second-inning double gave the Braves runners at second and third with just one out. But the talented right-hander proved to be his own worst enemy while issuing his only three walks and hitting a batter — the struggling Dan Uggla — in a 30-pitch third inning.
After Heyward grounded into a double play following Michael Bourn’s leadoff walk, it looked like Bauer might also get through the third inning unscathed. But Martin Prado followed with a walk of his own and scored from first base on Brian McCann’s double to right field.
Andrelton Simmons’ leadoff double combined with Jurrjens’ sacrifice bunt and Bourn’s sacrifice fly allowed the Braves to grab a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning. Bauer, selected third overall in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, was pulled after allowing two runs and five hits in four innings.