Craig Kimbrel was tipping his pitches up until Game 5, says Alex Cora

Oct 18, 2018; Houston, TX: Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in game five of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 18, 2018; Houston, TX: Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel throws a pitch in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros in game five of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Craig Kimbrel looked more like his usual self in the Red Sox' ALCS-clinching win on Thursday night. It sounds like the Red Sox closer found out that hitters knew what was coming.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters that Kimbrel was possibly tipping his pitches prior to Thursday night, when the Red Sox advanced to the World Series with a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Via USA Today's Bob Nightengale, Cora said Kimbrel had been tipping his breaking balls going back to the ALDS against the New York Yankees. He believed opponents were taking so many breaking balls that they had to know when Kimbrel was about the throw them.

"There’s something with his slider I think," said Cora, via Ian Browne. "There has to be something going on because there’s a lot of takes. Quality ones, too. They keep taking it, and that started in New York. Either they have a good gameplan or it’s paranoia from my end."

Oct 18, 2018, Houston, TX: Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel (right) celebrates with catcher catcher Sandy Leon (left) after defeating the Houston Astros in game five of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)
Oct 18, 2018, Houston, TX: Boston Red Sox pitcher Craig Kimbrel (right) celebrates with catcher catcher Sandy Leon (left) after defeating the Houston Astros in game five of the 2018 ALCS playoff baseball series at Minute Maid Park. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Kimbrel closed the door on the ALCS with a scoreless ninth inning in Game 5, needing 14 pitches to finish off the Astros. He did walk Yuli Gurriel on four pitches, but threw nine of his 14 pitches for strikes (64.3 percent), which is above his regular season rate of 62.2 percent. He only threw three breaking balls: a foul swing by Correa, and two takes - for strikes. Marwin Gonzalez struck out on three pitches, the punchout coming on a breaking pitch that dipped into the strike zone.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact Kimbrel's adjustment truly has on him. He still needs to show better control, despite improvements on Thursday. But if the issue so far in October was simply that he was tipping his slider, eliminating that problem could suddenly make the Red Sox' surging bullpen just as dangerous as their NL opponent in the World Series.

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