While the Los Angeles Dodgers received contributions from several players throughout the National League Division Series and thus far in the NL Championship Series, Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw have been particularly instrumental.
What’s more, both players have pitched under circumstances they previously were unfamiliar with. Kershaw closed out Game 5 of the NLDS, because Jansen was called on in the seventh inning. The right-handed closer has appeared in six games this postseason.
Jansen has entered prior to the ninth inning in four of those appearances. Such was the case in Game 3 of the NLCS when he emerged from the bullpen with two outs in the eighth inning.
Jansen struck out Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant, and although the Dodgers extended their lead to 6-0, remained in the game in the ninth to complete 1.1 innings of work.
Finishing out Game 3 with Los Angeles holding a comfortable lead wasn’t something Jansen took issue over, per Adam McCalvy of MLB.com:
“It’s a must-win, man,” Jansen said. “We needed that win. I want to go out there and keep competing. I definitely feel great. Every day that I get back into it, I feel like my rhythm gets better and better.
“Like I’ve been saying, there’s just two more weeks left. Hopefully we can play for another two weeks. You just have to dig deep and give everything you have to help the team win.”
The Cubs had Ben Zobrist, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez due up in the ninth. Rizzo reached on a broken-bat single, then was stranded by Baez and Chris Coghlan.
“I didn’t want to change the momentum at all,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained. “And the first-out pitch count was manageable, so I think that I felt good just leaving him in there.”
Jansen has thrown a combined 8.2 innings over six playoff games. He set career highs with 2.1 innings and 51 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS. He was prepared to go multiple innings in Game 1 of the NLCS two days later, though the Dodgers never called on their closer.
The 29-year-old credited a workout program that involves plenty of running for his ability to quickly recover from the more-than-usual workload.