With the Los Angeles Dodgers looking to end their World Series drought, the biggest question mark the club faces lies with Kenley Jansen. The once-dominant closer has been saddled by inconsistency for the better part of the past two years, which lent to changes this season.
In effort to avoid Jansen going prolonged stretches without making regular appearances — and thus making honing his mechanics all the more challenging — the Dodgers committed to having him pitch at least once per series.
Jansen steadily began to find a rhythm and looked like his old self on the team’s road trip last week. Jansen wasn’t quite as sharp on Tuesday but still pulled the Dodgers through trouble with a four-out save.
However, pitching on back-to-back days for the first time since Aug. 9-10 saw familiar struggles resurface. There was a drop off in command and Jansen proceeded to allow two runs, blowing a fourth save in his past eight opportunities.
“I thought he came out strong,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after an 8-7 loss in 11 innings. “Then there was the base hit, the walk to Duffy. That’s something that, to anybody, after the base hit can’t happen. I thought he got squeezed on the Choi pitch; next pitch, base hit. It flipped the inning.
“Kenley is going out there, trying to compete and make pitches. He didn’t have the command that he did the last few times out, and when you don’t, you get exposed.”
While the game may have elicited memories of Jansen’s season-long struggles, Roberts was adamant the blown save was not indicative of overall progress and direction.
“I don’t think it’s a setback,” Roberts said. “The results speak to that, but I think Kenley’s in a good place. Right now, the way that he’s been throwing — obviously tonight was a blown save — but there were some good throws in there.”
Jansen acknowledged his command lacked in what he felt was a poor performance. “I didn’t have it today. I sucked,” he bluntly assessed himself. “Just got to move on from it. You can’t let this one hold you back.
“I mean, listen, you can’t control the outcome. The command wasn’t the best, but the last three games it was. You can’t let this one frustrate you.”
Jansen also refuted the idea Tuesday’s four-out save took any sort of physical toll on him. Roberts echoed that sentiment, explaining the back-to-back appearance stemmed from Jansen’s pitch count having been manageable in recent games and receiving assurances of good health.