PITTSBURGH – Seven-time All-Star game Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel became the 12th pitcher to reach 350 saves in a 4-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Kimbrel struck out Dustin Fowler and pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning and then retired the Pirates in order to record their first five-out save in his 12-year major league career.

“It is a tremendous achievement,” Kimbrel said. β€œI am happy to get to this point. Now the plan is to have 400 ”.

Kimbrel’s 22-pitch performance didn’t exactly make him happy. The 32-year-old veteran spent nearly an hour in his usual post-game training routine.

“(Craig) is special and we are fortunate to have him,” said Jake Arrieta, a Cubs starter who worked six innings against Pittsburgh to improve to 2-0. β€œHe’s going to go up the list, especially with the arsenal he has. Maybe I’ll end up feeling number one (in rescues) ”.

The feat of climbing the historic rescue list seemed far-fetched during the period in which Kimbrel fought. In the 2019 and 2020 seasons, he was 0-5 with a 6.00 ERA in 41 appearances for Chicago.

That period begins to seem distant. Kimbrel hasn’t allowed a hit in 4 2/3 innings of work in 2021.

When asked about the difference between now and the last two seasons Kimbrel just shrugged.

“Throw strike,” he finished with a smile.