ARLINGTON, Texas – After the final batter retired using a 94 mph fastball on Friday night, and faced off, Kenley Jansen glanced at the Los Angeles Dodgers dugout with an intensity rarely seen from the personable right hand. The meaning behind it, Jansen said, is usually, “Let’s go!”
With the rest of the Dodgers, it represents the rest: Kenley Jansen – the good Kenley Jansen – is back.
Jansen recorded the final three releases of Saturday’s 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. This time the lead was just two runs, half the pillow of his release on Friday, representing his first save since the Dodgers ’first postseason game 17 days ago. Jansen, facing under the Braves command assisted with a sliding catch from Joc Pederson to open the inning, then got regular flyouts from Nick Markakis and Pablo Sandoval. Six pitches, three out to force a Game 7.
“If we want to get to where we want to go, and hold that trophy by the end of the year, we will need him,” Dodgers’ third baseman Justin Turner said. “He’s going to be a big part of it. Two big trips, not just for us but for him personally. And you can just see the confidence he has in the heap, attacking people. That’s Kenley Jansen who I and we are. all there. know and love. “
Jansen was not bad this season – he finished with a 3.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts and nine walks in 24 1/3 innings – but again he did not continue to dominate. The speed on his cutter began to sink below 90 mph towards the end of the regular season, and he started the playoffs on an unstable foot.
After failing to defend a three-run lead against the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the division series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts temporarily removed him from high-availability situations. His next appearance will include 14 run leads in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. But Roberts noticed a smoother, more repetitive delivery at that release. After he released the side to easily hold four runs leading in the ninth inning of Game 4, the Dodgers shorts Corey Seager saw someone confident again.
On Saturday, Jansen threw his cutter 90 to 91 mph and mixed it in a two-seamer near the mid-90s.
“The game was a tribute to him,” Roberts said of Jansen. “I couldn’t be happier and proud of him.”
Jansen has spent the past few weeks looking to get his upper half and his lower half in sync, an ongoing problem for someone with a 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame. A few days ago, through conversations with longtime pitchers Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt, both related to the organization, Jansen found the clean, simple delivery of his early years. He believes, consistency, is starting to come.
“Ain’t no roles in the playoffs,” Jansen said when asked about being temporarily removed as the team is close. “It’s, ‘When can you be in the best position to help your team win?’ I’ve been here a long time, and no one else has a ring here in the organization. That’s the last thing I think I have to do here. We want it. We want it for everyone, and these fans deserve it, and it’s about earning a championship here. “