BOSTON -- In a game that would result in a 4-1 loss in 16 innings to the rival Yankees, the Red Sox had New York on the ropes in the ninth inning with All-Star closer Craig Kimbrel on the hill.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead, Kimbrel fired a high fastball on the third pitch of the ninth to Yankees DH Matt Holliday, who smacked the ball well over the Green Monster to tie the game. The blown save was Kimbrel's first at Fenway Park; he was 30-for-30 on save attempts there prior to Saturday.
"Well, the first two pitches I threw were breaking balls, so I can imagine he was sitting on a fastball there," Kimbrel said. "It's not too often I throw three breaking balls in a row to somebody. I feel like if I executed, it may have been a foul ball or swing and miss, but he put a good swing on it and hit it a long way."
Kimbrel failed to nail down his 24th save of the season, but he's not discouraged by the result of a single pitch.
"That's part of the life of a reliever," Kimbrel said. "Sometimes one pitch can be the outcome of the entire game. It seemed like that was kind of it today."
On Saturday, Kimbrel didn't come into the game for the ninth inning as he commonly does. Instead, Red Sox manager John Farrell went to his closer in the eighth inning to get a four-out save, Kimbrel's first appearance in the eighth since June 6.
Kimbrel replaced starter Chris Sale to face dangerous right-handed hitter Aaron Judge, the American League home run leader, with two outs in the inning.
The power right-hander went right at Judge in a 10-pitch duel that resulted in a flyout.
So did the long Judge at-bat have an effect on the way he pitched Holliday?
"I'm still going at guys and throwing my best pitch," Kimbrel said. "I'm not going to say that the pitches I threw in the eighth inning were going to affect how I threw in the ninth. It just so happens the leadoff guy hit a homer."
Farrell's decision to rely on Kimbrel for a four-out save might have been a forced maneuver. Boston's setup man, Joe Kelly, was placed on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain hours before Saturday's game, and Sale had pitched two innings in Tuesday's All-Star Game.
"We were looking at a four-out save today," Farrell said. "With Kelly's situation, we were in the lead, so yeah, the fact that [Sale]'s day was coming to an end. That was a lot of pitches after the two innings on Tuesday night."
Even with Sale's increased workload over the All-Star break, the lefty was dealing Saturday, striking out 13 batters in 7 2/3 innings. Though he was at 118 pitches, Sale wanted to get out of the frame himself, but felt comfortable handing the ball to Kimbrel.
"Having him back there is huge," Sale said. "He's one of the best in the game, if not the best in the game. As a competitor, I want to stay out there and finish the inning, but it makes it a little easier when you're passing the ball to someone like him."
Evan Chronis is a reporter for MLB.com based in Boston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.