As the Los Angeles Dodgers heavily relied on their bullpen en route to reaching the 2017 World Series, Kenley Jansen emerged as a dynamic and arguably the game’s best closer. Because of the heavy workload, the Dodgers eased him into Spring Training this year.
Slow playing him, coupled with hamstring tightness suffered during camp, potentially contributed to Jansen never quite finding his footing this season. He also dealt with another bout of an irregular heartbeat and will undergo offseason heart surgery for a second time.
Jansen shook some of his struggles and inconsistency once the postseason began, throwing 6.2 shutout innings and holding opponents to a .091/.167/.091 batting line through the National League Championship Series.
Facing the Boston Red Sox has brought about vastly different results. Jansen didn’t pitch until Game 3 of the World Series, when he allowed a game-tying home run with two outs in the eighth inning.
One night after pitching two innings, he was again summoned in during the eighth. And once more, Jansen surrendered another solo home run that allowed the Red Sox to tie the game.
“You know what? They’re a good team,” Jansen said after blowing a second consecutive save. “One bad pitch yesterday, one bad pitch today. Can’t worry about it. You go home, think about it and all that stuff, you’re not going to be great for [Sunday]. What I can do is control tomorrow.”
While the homer Jansen allowed was another dent in what had proven to be an impeccable track record, it was Dylan Floro, Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda who allowed the game to get away.
“It’s definitely disappointing. We’re all disappointed. At this point we can’t think about what happened and question ourselves,” Jansen said. “We’ve got another day. It’s not over until it’s over. We’ve been playing like this the whole year; being from behind. We know the Red Sox are a pretty good team. We’ve just got to go out there and compete.”
The Dodgers now have their backs against the wall, and if they are to overcome the daunting 3-1 series deficit, they presumably will need Jansen along the way. Even with the struggles, he appears to be in a positive mental state.
“My confidence level is always good,” Jansen said. “It’s not going to change.”