Kenley Jansen had a memorable Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Not only did he record the final five outs for the save, but he also batted, putting him in select company.
Jansen tied the longest save of his career with five outs, though it should be noted he also had 11 appearances of two innings and four more of 1⅔ innings as a setup man from 2010-2013.
He had to go through the top of the order in the ninth inning, too. Jansen struck out Trea Turner and Jayson Werth, and retired the middle man Bryce Harper on a soft liner to second base. With 27 pitches, Jansen was ready for even more:
Kenley Jansen: "If I have to go 6 outs right now, it's just 'We've got to go.' If I have to do it every day, "We've got to go.'"— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 8, 2016
Dave Roberts suggested that Kenley Jansen might be used to record a four-or-more out save again in this series if he deems it necessary.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) October 8, 2016
It was the sixth save in Jansen’s postseason career, more than any pitcher in Dodgers franchise history.
It was also the longest save by a Dodger since Jay Howell pitched 2⅓ innings to close out Game 4 of the 1988 World Series in Oakland. But it was the plate appearance that pushed this appearance into the stratosphere for Jansen.
The Dodgers, up a run in the ninth, put two runners on base with two outs, and Yasiel Puig was up with Jansen on deck. The Nationals chose to walk Puig to get to Jansen, either forcing the Dodgers to pinch hit (Andre Ethier briefly stood in the batters box; “gamesmanship,” manager Dave Roberts said) and remove Jansen from the game, or leave Jansen in and have him bat.
There was a reason Jansen, a .229/.310/.337 hitter in the minors, converted from catching to pitching in 2009, after all.
Jansen came to the plate the owner of a .500 career on-base percentage, with his single and walk in four plate appearances. Both times reaching base came as a right-handed batter because Jansen, to make this even more quirky, is a switch hitter.
Batting left-handed against Mark Melancon, Jansen took some mighty hacks, but ultimately struck out.
Perusing the lists of Dodgers postseason relievers to get a plate appearance (the last was Chris Capuano in Game 3 of the 2013 NLDS) and those with a save, here is the list of Dodgers pitchers to record a save while also batting in a postseason game, a group that runs just six deep:
- Jeff Pfeffer (1916 World Series Game 6: he was 1-for-1, and retired all 8 batters he faced)
- Clem Labine (1955 World Series Game 5: struck out twice, but allowed a run over three innings to close out the win)
- Larry Sherry (1959 World Series: pitched three innings and struck out in Game 2, pitched two innings and had a sacrifice bunt in Game 3)
- Steve Howe (1981 World Series, Game 6: closed out the championship at Yankee Stadium by recording the final 11 outs, and struck out twice at the plate — teams alternated years for a bit using the DH in the World Series)
- Jonathan Broxton (2009 NLDS, Game 1: got the final four outs against St. Louis, and struck out at the plate)
- Jansen (2016 NLDS Game 1: 1⅔ innings, allowing one hit and three strikeouts; struck out at the plate)
For his efforts, Jansen got a share of the Dodgers’ player of the game championship belt, sharing it with third baseman Justin Turner, who homered:
Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner shared the WWE-style belt for their exploits. Turner said it's the first time two players have shared it.— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) October 8, 2016