The Boston Red Sox are on a signature run right now, establishing a seemingly insurmountable lead in the AL East, including a demoralizing four game sweep of the New York Yankees.
The Red Sox are getting on base and they are finishing with power. Down their best pitcher, their starters are going deep and the bullpen is closing things out.
The Red Sox are either running teams off the field with a relentless attack, or mounting incredible comebacks, delivering some of the most difficult loses to their opponents on the season.
This is exactly how the Red Sox want to be playing in the playoffs, because they know there is no team they need to be scared of when they play at this level.
The one issue, however, is that Craig Kimbrel may be as important as any other individual when it comes to their playoff success, and he might be on the worst stretch of his season right now.
It is even more impressive that the Red Sox are winning this much, despite their all world closer struggling to hold even strong leads right now.
Keep in mind, we are still talking about the most dominant and consistent closer since Mariano Rivera. Kimbrel has earned the benefit of the doubt more than anyone else, and there is no reason to think he will not get back on track.
It is a small stretch, and it is no where near enough to actually be concerned going on. That being said, the success of the rest of the team makes his struggles stand out even more, and getting him back on track has to be a priority the rest of the way.
Kimbrel needs to be the closer that you never have to worry about. The Red Sox are in a position where they know if their starter can go deep, Kimbrel will be there to shut things down in a way that no one else in the league is capable of.
Unfortunately, five earned runs in his last five appearance tells a very different story. The interesting part is that the Red Sox actually managed to win all those games. With two blown saves, this stretch would look drastically worse for Kimbrel if he was not bailed out in extra innings.
The Red Sox are doing more than enough right now to carry Kimbrel as he works through this anomalous stretch, but he needs to be there when other people are struggling in the playoffs.
There is plenty of time for Kimbrel to put this behind him, and everything we have seen in his career suggests this stretch will be over quite quickly. For now, however, it is the one weaknesses to pay attention to from this stretch and it will be a lot more difficult to ignore if the Red Sox start to run out of epic finishes for the rest of the regular season.
The Red Sox have won a lot of games in a difficult manner in this stretch. Kimbrel is more responsible than any other individual for that added difficulty, and they will suffer if it continues much longer.