It was stylish, but it wasn't exactly a stressful save situation despite the extra out. With the same three-run lead, Kimbrel entered the game in the eighth inning to face former Braves teammate Martin Prado with two outs and a runner at first. He won that battle with a strikeout looking. In the ninth inning, he set down Aaron Hill, David Peralta and Tuffy Gosewich in order to separate himself from the eight-time all-star and likely Hall of Famer in Smoltz.
''I've been a part of a lot of good teams and had a lot of opportunities,'' Kimbrel said. ''Having the chance my first full season to be a closer, that doesn't happen very often and that's why we're sitting here talking today, because I had that opportunity a lot of guys don't have.
''I feel blessed and grateful for it.''
It was Kimbrel's 16th save of the season in 18 opportunities. Overall, he's saved 155 in 172 chances. On Friday, he helped make a winner of Julio Teheran, who gave up two runs on five hits over seven innings. With the win, Atlanta regained sole possession of first place, one-half game ahead of both the Washington Nationals, who defeated the San Diego Padres 6-0 on Friday, and the Miami Marlins, who fell 5-3 to the Chicago Cubs in 13 innings.
RAYS SNAP 10-GAME LOSING STREAK: The Tampa Bay Rays weren't looking at veteran left-hander Erik Bedard as a stopper when they signed him to a one-year deal in February, but he proved to be just that on Friday, holding the Seattle Mariners scoreless over six innings as the Rays snapped their 10-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory.
The Rays don't care where the production comes from right now. They're at a point where they're looking for anything positive to build on and reasons to relax in the clubhouse. They got both thanks largely to Bedard on Friday, but the bullpen chipped in as well as Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and closer Grant Balfour each added a scoreless inning of their own.
''The music is back on in the clubhouse after the game,'' Maddon said. ''It's good to hear the music. It's a good first game to start hopefully getting us back in the right direction.''
''It's way more fun winning,'' Bedard said. ''We celebrated, and hopefully we do that tomorrow, too.''
The losing streak tied Boston for the longest in the majors this season. Ironically, the Rays last win prior to Friday came on May 25 against the Red Sox, which was the 10th loss in their long streak. For whatever it's worth, Boston would go on to win their next seven games after ending the streak.
POSEY LIFTS GIANTS WITH LATE HOMER:
San Francisco Giants nearly allowed a brilliantly pitched game by Matt Cain to slip away on Friday night, but former National League MVP Buster Posey would have none of that. His two-run, eighth inning home run off Carlos Torres served as the difference maker in San Francisco's 4-2 victory over the New York Mets, though unfortunately it didn't make a winner of the Giants dominant right-hander.The
Cain has been perfect one time before, nearly two years ago to the day to be exact, and was perfect again through four innings at AT&T Park. A walk to Curtis Granderson leading off the fifth inning ended his historic bid to pitch a second perfecto, but a double play quickly wiped him out and meant Cain had still faced the minimum through five. In the sixth, Ruben Tejada led off with an infield single, ending Cain's no-hit bid, but again a double play kept Cain on track.
It wasn't until the seventh inning that New York sustained some offense. Matt den Dekker led off the inning with a double and then Daniel Murphy followed with a two-run homer that gave New York a short-lived lead. Cain finished the seventh and concluded his night with a two runs and three hits only over seven innings. He only struck out three, but was efficient and was only threatened at the very end.
Jonathan Niese was equally as effective for New York, allowing two runs on five hits over seven frames. But it was Posey's big swing that made San Francisco the first team in MLB to reach 40 wins this season. Their lead in the NL West remains 8.5 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
HOW 'BOUT THEM ASTROS: Another day, another win for the Houston Astros, their 16th in 25 games, as they topped the Twins 5-4 in the first game of a short two-stop, five-game road trip through Minnesota and Arizona.
Left-hander Dallas Keuchel picked up his seventh win on the mound after hurling six scoreless innings. He held Minnesota to five hits and two walks while striking out six. He then sat by and watched on nervously as Houston's bullpen turned a five-run lead into a one-run final. It ended up that the deciding blow was George Springer's impressive two-run, opposite field homer that capped Houston's three-run sixth inning. The powerful rookie now has 11 roundtrippers on the season.
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