Perhaps the only New Englanders that Craig Kimbrel doesn't owe an apology to are the region's cardiologists.
The Boston Red Sox All-Star closer has had a shaky postseason through the first two rounds, but Kimbrel managed to keep things together Thursday in Game 5 of the ALCS. Although he did issue a one-out walk to Yuli Gurriel in the ninth inning, Kimbrel settled down and struck out Marwin Gonzalez on three pitches before inducing a fly ball from Tony Kemp to clinch Boston's first AL pennant since 2013.
Given his performance in recent weeks, Red Sox fans could be forgiven for sweating when Kimbrel first emerged from the bullpen. Once he'd finished his clean performance, the 30-year-old took a moment to ask for a mea culpa from Boston for his previous work.
"I'm sorry that I gave quite a few of you heart attacks the last few days," Kimbrel told MassLive's Chris Cotillo. "Let's hope in the World Series I can make them nice and clean."
Kimbrel put together another solid regular season for the Red Sox, but has noticeably struggled during their run through October. He needed 28 pitches to close out the New York Yankees in Game 4 of the ALDS during a late rally that nearly forced the series back to Boston.
During the fourth game of the ALCS on Wednesday, Kimbrel faced more scrutiny after walking the bases loaded in the ninth inning, only escaping a blown save when Andrew Benintendi ended the game with an incredible diving catch.
Manager Alex Cora's move to use Kimbrel for the save one day after his adventurous Game 4 appearance may have raised some eyebrows among members of Red Sox nation, but Cora revealed afterwards that he was comfortable calling on him because a pitch-tipping issue had been fixed.