ARLINGTON, Texas – After eliminating the last batter with a 94 mph fastball on Friday night and striking out to the side, Kenley Jansen stared at the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout with an intensity rarely seen by the personal righthander. The meaning behind it, Jansen said, was actually, “Let’s go!”
For the rest of the Dodgers, it represented something else: Kenley Jansen – the good Kenley Jansen – is back.
Jansen registered the last three outs of Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. This time, the lead was only two points, half the cushion of his performance on Friday, which represents his first save since the first postseason game of the Dodgers 17 days ago. Jansen, who faced the bottom of the Braves’ order, was helped by a sliding catch by Joc Pederson to open the inning, then got routine flyouts from Nick Markakis and Pablo Sandoval. Six throws, three outs to force Game 7.
“If we want to get where we want to be and hold that trophy at the end of the year, we need it,” said Justin Turner, Dodgers third baseman. He’s going to be a big part of it. Two big outings, not just for us, but for him personally. And you can just see the confidence he has on the hill and attacking guys. That’s the Kenley Jansen I and all of us in there. know and love. “
Jansen wasn’t bad this season – he finished with a 3.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts and nine walks in 24 1/3 innings – but again he wasn’t consistently dominant. Speed on his cutter started dropping below 90mph towards the end of the regular season and he started the playoffs on unstable footing.
After failing to protect a three-point lead against the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the division series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts temporarily removed him from high-leverage situations. His next appearance was with a 14-run lead in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. But Roberts noticed smoother, more repeatable delivery during that outing. After striking out to easily hold onto a four-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 4, Dodgers-shortstop Corey Seager saw someone who threw confidently again.
On Saturday, Jansen threw his cutter 90 to 91 mph and mixed it with a two-sailer approaching the mid-90s.
“The game honors him,” said Roberts of Jansen. “I couldn’t be happier and more proud of him.”
Jansen has spent the past few weeks looking for synchronizing his top and bottom halves, an ongoing problem for someone with a 1.85 meter and 265 kilo frame. A few days ago, conversations with longtime pitchers Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt, both of whom still have ties to the organization, allowed Jansen to rediscover the clean, simple delivery of his early years. Consistency, he believes, is starting to come.
“There are no roles in the playoffs,” said Jansen when asked if he would be temporarily removed as the team is getting closer. “It is,” When is the best time to help your team win? ” I’ve been here for a long time, and it’s nothing else to interact with the organization here. That’s the last thing I need to achieve here. We want it. We want it for everyone, and the fans deserve it, and it this is about winning a championship. “
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