Dodgers lineup starts Rocky Mountain cold: 5 takeaways from opening series

New Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel, right, is congratulated by catcher Will Smith after recording a save on Friday.

(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The lone Dodgers’ lone victory of the series included a promising first, with new closer Craig Kimbrel earning a save Friday in his Dodgers debut.

The hard-throwing right-hander, who was acquired from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for AJ Pollock near the end of spring training, gave up a run in the outing but also registered two strikeouts.

Another important note from his performance: He threw his curveball on nine of 21 pitches.

Kimbrel said Saturday that the curveball will be key for him this season. It’s a pitch he has used with increased frequency over his career, as his fastball has lost a few ticks and hitters have gotten better at attacking velocity up in the zone.

When he’s able to be aggressive and throw the curveball for strikes, “it changes the at-bat and approach,” Kimbrel said. “It changes everything.”

Kimbrel says he believes it explains his roller-coaster performance in 2021, when he went from being one of the best relievers in baseball over the first half of the season with the Chicago Cubs, to struggling down the stretch following a trade to the White Sox, where he was used as a set-up man.

“I think it kind of put myself into a hole,” said Kimbrel, who threw the curveball a career-high 40.7% of the time in 2021. “I had outings where I got out of it and threw just fine. And other ones that weren’t so well.”

To that end, Friday was a good start. While he gave up an RBI double with the curve — a “good pitch to hit” he was still regretting a day later — he got both his strikeouts with the pitch, as well.

“It was just getting the ball over the plate,” he said. “I was able to attack and be effective with my breaking pitches. … There’s positives there.”

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