HUNTSVILLE – Former Lee High and Wallace State pitcher Craig Kimbrel, who broke into
Major League Baseball as a star rookie reliever with the Atlanta Braves, might get an
opportunity to play the now-veteran spoiler as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies when the playoffs move into the divisional round this weekend.
The Phillies advanced out of the wild card round Wednesday night by sweeping the Miami Marlins 2-0. Both teams finished directly behind the Braves, who won the East Division for the sixth straight year and are big favorites to win the World Series.
Philadelphia will travel to Atlanta’s Truist Park for Game 1 in the best-of-five National League Division Series (NLDS) Saturday. The game will be televised on TBS with the start time to be determined. The series is a rematch of the 2022 NLDS when the Phillies upset the Braves.
Kimbrel joined Philadelphia prior to this season.
In the opposite dugout for the series will be Atlanta pitcher Kyle Wright who was born in
Huntsville and graduated from Buckhorn High School. Wright, who played collegiately at
Vanderbilt, had a record of 21-5 in 2022 and was MLB’s lone 20-game winner.
This year, Wright had some shoulder trouble in spring training, joined the team late early in the season and left his fifth start with arm soreness. He was placed on the 60-day injured list to allow his shoulder to rest and heal. He returned Sept. 11 and, after making two pitch-limited starts, finished the season coming out of the bullpen.
Ironically, Wright’s two September starts were losses to the Phillies. Kimbrel earned the win in one of those games. Wright was effective as a reliever and starter in the 2021 and 2022 postseason.
It’s not clear what role he will fill when the division series begins, particularly with starter Charlie Morton out with a right index finger strain. Along with Spencer Strider and Max Fried, who left his last start with a finger blister, Wright gives the team three starters
available with postseason experience.
This season, Kimbrel notched career save No. 400 in front of friends and family in a Phillies win in Atlanta where the Huntsville native was named National League Rookie of the Year in 2011 after setting an MLB rookie record with 46 saves.
In the Wild Card Series sweep of Miami, Kimbrel earned the save in Game 1 in one inning of relief.
In a non-playing local angle, musician Jason Isbell of Greenhill in Lauderdale County is scheduled to throw out the first pitch Monday in Game 2 of the Divisional Series at Truist Park.
The Braves-Phillies winner will play either the Los Angeles Dodgers or Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Championship Series.
Another graduate of an area high school, Braxton Garrett, was the starting pitcher for the Miami Marlins in the Game 2 loss to the Phillies. Braxton moved from Foley and played at Florence High School as a junior and senior.