MIAMI -- As he was raised in Alabama, Craig Kimbrel was among the countless Braves fans who used to love watching John Smoltz close games. Kimbrel now has the honor of knowing he has saved as many games as Smoltz did during his stint as Atlanta's closer.
Kimbrel matched Smoltz's franchise record of 154 saves when he closed out Saturday afternoon's 9-5 win at Marlins Park. It appeared he would have to wait at least one more day to reach this mark. But he was summoned out of the Braves' bullpen after the Marlins put two on with one out in the ninth.
After Kimbrel opened his outing by striking out Derek Dietrich, Ramiro Pena committed an error that loaded the bases. But the 26-year-old Braves closer then ended the game with a Casey McGehee groundout.
"It definitely is [special] to be a part of something like that," Kimbrel said. "I know if Smoltz had done it his whole career, he would've had had a lot more."
Smoltz's stint as Braves closer began late in the 2001 season and extended through '04. During that span, he converted 154 of 169 save opportunities. Kimbrel has been successful with all but 17 of his 171 save opportunities.
Still just 26 years old, Kimbrel is positioned to have many more opportunities and possibly one day approach the records set by Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman and many of the game's other legendary closers.
Eric Gagne (91.7) and Smoltz (91.1) are the only pitchers in Major League history to record at least 150 saves with a save percentage better than Kimbrel (90.1).
"It is nice to say I'm a part of something like that, but then again, I've had a lot of opportunities," Kimbrel said. "I've played on some good ball teams the first three or four years. If it wasn't for that case, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about this now. I'm honored to even have the opportunity and the chance. Hopefully we'll have a lot more opportunities and we win a lot more ballgames."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.