After Kenley Jansen struggled to find much, if any, consistency, the Los Angeles Dodgers committed to plan to have him pitch more regularly. The change means Jansen is essentially guaranteed to appear at least once per every series.
The Dodgers would use their closer even if it meant forfeiting a potential save opportunity the ensuing day(s). Results have still been mixed, and that was again the case when Jansen entered in the ninth inning Tuesday night.
Home runs by Russell Martin, David Freese and Justin Turner had the Dodgers three outs from a comeback win. Yimi Garcia allowed a home run in the fourth inning but Adam Kolarek, Dylan Floro, Caleb Ferguson and Casey Sadler combined for 4.1 scoreless innings.
Jansen converted his 28th save of the season but not before the Rockies pushed a run across. It stemmed from a one-out walk, which was followed by a double and RBI groundout.
“I thought there were some good throws. You just can’t have that walk right there,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts critiqued. “That’s something that if you look back at his success, the strikeout versus the walk ratio was significant.
“Right there, you get the first guy out and then the walk. We’ve got to get past that. (Yonder) Alonso put a good at-bat together. Kenley made pitches when he needed to but when you don’t command the baseball like you’re expected to, it’s just hard to put guys away. There were some good throws in there, it was a save, and hopefully it’s something for him to build on.”
The one-out walk resonated with Jansen as well. “The hardest part was the walk. That’s not me,” he said. “That’s the one thing I’ve got to do better. If I didn’t walk him the inning might be totally different. Walks kill you.”
Jansen’s 2.05 walks per nine innings and 5.5% walk rate are both slightly down from last season’s marks. However, they are up from his dominant seasons while Jansen’s 75.4% strand rate is on pace to be the lowest of his career.
Jansen got ahead on both the walk and double but struggled to put both batters away as he attempted to nibble at the edges and failed to generate a swing-and-miss when he threw over the plate. Though, balls and strikes were not on his mind.
“I can’t argue with that. I’m not the one that’s in charge of balls and strikes, I’m not going to criticize any umpires out there,” Jansen said. “I think all of them are doing a great job. If I don’t get calls, I’m going to continue to find the zone until I do.”
Much of his struggles and dip in velocity have centered around mechanics often getting out of sync. Jansen deferred when asked how he would assess them Tuesday night. “Not thinking about mechanics and all that stuff right now,” he said.
“Just go out there and compete. I’ll think about that tomorrow when I watch video with Honey.”
Having recently admitted to 2019 being a trying season, the 31-year-old remains focused on improving. “Just keep pitching, just stay positive,” Jansen said.
“Step by step. Just keep going. Tomorrow might be 1-2-3, who knows. There might be traffic, or it might be 1-2-3. In my mind it’s going to be 1-2-3. That’s my way of thinking.”