The 2019 season has been another up-and-down year for Kenley Jansen as at times he has looked like his usual dominant self, while at others he has not, blowing a career-high eight saves to this point.
It looked as if Jansen may have been turning a corner, tossing 4.1 shutout innings while allowing just one hit with five strikeouts and one walk in his last four outings going into play Wednesday.
That progress came crashing down against the Tampa Bay Rays as he entered with a two-run lead in the ninth inning and allowed two hits and two runs to blow the save in a game the Los Angeles Dodgers eventually lost in 11 innings.
Despite the result, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts still took some positives away and is not considering removing Jansen from the closer role.
“Right now, the way that he’s been throwing — obviously tonight was a blown save — but there were some good throws in there,” Roberts explained. “Duffy, just not putting him away, and I thought he had Choi punched. I’m not really entertaining that thought right now.”
As has seemingly been the case with Jansen throughout his entire career, it is easy to tell when he has his best stuff and command and when he doesn’t. Roberts believes Jansen needs to find a way to get outs even when he isn’t at his best.
Jansen agreed with his manager’s sentiment when assessing his own performance on Wednesday night. “Yeah, there have been those games (where command has lacked). Just have to get better,” Jansen said.
“We have a week and a half now left? Just finish strong. Finish strong and when we get to the postseason, help the team win a championship.”
Over the last month or so, the Dodgers have adjusted Jansen’s usage and utilized him in different innings and situations. The hope was pitching more regularly would aid Jansen in refining his mechanics and finding a rhythm.
Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman has emphasized the importance of having a complete pitching staff in the postseason as opposed to strict roles. That may be the best course of action to put Jansen and all of the other pitchers on the team in position to succeed.