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Trust in Dodgers bullpen pays off with Game 6 win

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MLB: World Series-Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — Dave Roberts showed trust in the key components of his bullpen, and it paid off handsomely in closing out Tuesday night’s Game 6 win to even the World Series against the Astros.

Dodgers relievers retired 14 of their 17 batters faced on Tuesday, including closer Kenley Jansen retiring all six of his batters faced, striking out three.

“He’s the best closer in baseball. To see him coming out of the bullpen for the eighth, everybody was really excited,” Rich Hill said. “We knew he wanted to come back and prove himself, go out there and win it for every other guy in this locker room. There’s nobody else we would want on the mound that late in the game, with the game on the line, than Kenley.”

Jansen allowed a run in each of his previous three appearances, including a blown save in Game 2 and a loss in Game 5. It was the first time he allowed runs in consecutive games — let alone three straight games — in over two years.

“It doesn’t matter how many runs they scored on us. That’s all in the past,” Jansen said. “The great thing about this bullpen is that we let that go, and don’t think about it anymore. We believe in ourselves, and we just go out and try to win ballgames.”

When Jansen entered the game, it was to face the middle of Houston’s lineup — Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel, and Brian McCann — and it wasn’t a given that he would pitch two innings. But after two pop ups and a strikeout took only seven pitches in the eighth inning, the decision to let him finish the ninth was that much easier.

“When I called on him in the eighth. I wasn’t certain. I just knew that part of the order, I just wanted him to attack those guys,” Roberts said. “If he wasn’t as efficient in the eighth, then I would have been put in a different situation to call on to close that game out.”

Jansen threw 19 pitches in total in Game 6.

The Big Three

Pitcher Games IP H R ER BB K Pitches ERA WHIP
Pitcher Games IP H R ER BB K Pitches ERA WHIP
Kenley Jansen 12 15⅔ 8 4 3 2 19 209 1.72 0.638
Brandon Morrow 13 13⅓ 11 6 6 2 11 173 4.05 0.975
Kenta Maeda 9 10⅔ 5 1 1 2 10 152 0.84 0.656

Another decision Roberts made was sticking with Brandon Morrow, who allowed four runs on six pitches in Game 5, on his third consecutive day of work. Monday’s off day rejuvenated Morrow, who retired Alex Bregman to get out of a bases-loaded situation in the fifth, then recorded two more outs in the sixth.

“I just felt that that was, with Justin Verlander on the mound, that was going to be the game,” Roberts said. “So a guy that we’ve trusted all year long in that spot, I felt that you have to use that bullet in Brandon Morrow, and I’ve believed in him all year long. And he came through in the biggest spot of the season.”

Morrow has pitched in 13 of the Dodgers’ 14 postseason games — one shy of Paul Assenmacher’s single-season record — including all six World Series games. Ten of those outings have been scoreless.

Kenta Maeda also had a bounce back, though his was after allowing his only run of this postseason. After giving up a game-tying home run to Jose Altuve in the fifth inning on Sunday in Houston, Maeda preserved a 2-1 lead in the seventh by getting Altuve to ground out with runners at the corners and two outs.

“Kenta, talking about redemption, and just to get another opportunity to pitch some big outs right there, and you’ve got an MVP at the plate,” Roberts said. “For Kenta to get those outs, bridge that gap, like he’s done for us in this postseason was huge. And Kenta keeps coming up big.”

That ground out by Altuve was saved by a tremendous scoop at first base by Cody Bellinger, who was 0-for-4 at the plate for his second golden sombrero of the World Series.

“Can't say enough about the pick that Cody made. That was huge,” Roberts said. “When you get a young player that isn’t there with the bat but can still have the presence of mind to still play defense and impact the game, that’s what we get in Cody.”

Up next

Yu Darvish and Lance McCullers Jr. will start on the mound on Wednesday in Game 7, but it’s basically going to be all hands on deck for both teams.