Braves Kimbrel wins rookie of the year

Updated:

Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel closes out the Washington Nationals in the 9th inning at Turner Field in Atlanta on Wednesday, August 31, 2011.

ATLANTA,None - Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel became the NL Rookie of the Year in a unanimous vote Monday.

Kimbrel set a major league record for saves by a rookie with 46. The hard-throwing right-hander earned all 32 first-place votes in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. Kimbrel outpointed Braves teammate Freddie Freeman.

Kimbrel was overpowering for much of the season, striking out 127 in 77 innings. He also anchored a dominant Braves' bullpen, pitching 79 games. He was 4-3 with a 2.10 ERA.

The 23-year-old Kimbrel made 38 straight appearances in midseason without allowing a run. He seemed to wear down a bit in the stretch as the Braves frittered away a 10½-game lead in the NL wild-card race. His eighth blown save of the year came in the final game of the season, when he gave up the tying run in the ninth inning against Philadelphia. The Phillies went on to win in 13 innings, costing the Braves a spot in a one-game playoff against St. Louis for the wild-card slot.

Kimbrel wound up tied for Milwaukee's John Axford for the NL lead in saves. He became the 10th unanimous NL rookie winner, and first since Albert Pujols in 2001. Kimbrel was the seventh Braves player to win the award that began in 1947, and first since Rafael Furcal in 2000.

Kimbrel, who pitched 21 games in 2010 but still retained his rookie eligibility, earned 160 points in the BBWAA balloting. Freeman, who hit .282 with 21 home runs and 76 RBIs. was second with 21 second-place votes and 70 points. Kimbrel and Freeman became the first pair of teammates to finish 1-2 in the NL rookie voting since Cubs outfielders Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith in 1989.

Philadelphia pitcher Vance Worley was third and Washington catcher Wilson Ramos was fourth. Ramos was kidnapped in Venezuela last week and freed Saturday when commandos raided the mountain hideout where he was being held.

Tampa Bay pitcher Jeremy Hellickson won the AL award Monday.


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