When the Los Angeles Dodgers were beginning to separate themselves from the rest of the pack during the 2017 season, they left Kenley Jansen a bevy of candy to make up for a lack of save opportunities.
That came May 31, when Jansen had all of eight saves on the season and just one during that calendar month. Jansen and the Dodgers are facing a similar situation two years later, as they have opened up an 18-game lead in the National League West and hold the best record in baseball.
However, in cases when L.A. has turned to their closer, he’s no longer been quite as unflappable. Jansen’s latest stumble came in Friday’s series opener against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He entered in the ninth inning with a 2-0 lead that was erased after two batters. Carson Kelly, who hit the game-tying home run off Jansen, later broke the tie by tagging Julio Urias for a solo shot in the 11th.
Jansen was back on the mound the following night despite it being a non-save situation. He allowed a one-out single before finishing the Dodgers’ 4-0 win. “Listen, Doc always has trust in me,” Jansen said.
“It’s a matter of me pitching a little more consistently out there. Knowing this team’s offense is incredible, me just being out there a little bit and not too much, it’s kind of tough to get it going. Doc knows, I know, the more I go in there, the more consistent, the better I get.”
Jansen threw 10 cutters during a bullpen session before Saturday’s game in effort to refine his mechanics. Movement on the patented pitch was improved when compared to the night of his fifth blown save this season.
“The line, everything was so much better. It’s tough when you’re not in there consistently. But I feel so much better [Saturday] than [Friday],” Jansen noted. “The direction, everything was so much better. I felt like the ball was coming out so much easier, too. Just have to keep working.”
On the season Jansen has appeared in 45 games and converted 26 of 32 save opportunities. His 3.74 ERA would represent a career high.
Saturday marked the ninth time Jansen pitched on back-to-back days, but it was his first time doing so since June 22-23. Of those nine cases, three saw Jansen appear in a game three straight games.
In the first instance, Jansen completed a save in all three games. The second stretch concluded with Jansen surrendering a walk-off grand slam to Hunter Renfroe, and the third time was in response to Jansen lobbying Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to get back on the mound the day after blowing a save.
Throughout his struggles this year, Jansen has maintained a singular focus. “I have one goal in mind, and that’s to win a championship for this team,” he reiterated.