So much of the talk about what could derail the Dodgers this October focused around the added, best-of-three wild card round in which seemingly anything could happen. That’s still a concern, but a bigger threat is looming in the back of the bullpen.
Kenley Jansen imploded on Saturday, allowing five hits and five runs in six batters faced, giving the Astros a stunning, 7-5 comeback win.
Jansen did not retired any of his six batters faced. George Springer had the lone non-hit, but he hit the ball the hardest, a 101.4-mph drive off Max Muncy that was ruled an error. Jansen was ahead of five of the six hitters, and got to two strikes on four of them.
“It was a nightmare, man,” Jansen said after the game. “I’m executing, I’m ahead in the count on everyone. I just didn’t execute well like I used to, just to put them away.”
The five runs allowed matched Jansen’s career high, set on April 19, 2011, in his first full year in the majors. He also allowed three runs on Tuesday in Arizona, though manager Dave Roberts characterized that outing as more losing command than in this game, when Jansen threw 18 of his 21 pitches for strikes. Very hittable strikes.
“I think it’s more magnified because it’s his last two outings,” Roberts said on a conference call. “But I know he’s in a good headspace, and his body feels good. He’s healthy. We just have to continue to give him confidence and expect to go out there and close out games for us.
“As far as a leash, he’s our closer. But obviously performance matters, it does. And everyone in that clubhouse knows that.”
The Dodgers led this one 5-1 in the eighth inning, but the Astros began their comeback with a run against Blake Treinen in the eighth. Houston had four hits in the first seven innings, and seven hits in the last two frames to snatch victory from defeat.
It spoiled what was looking like a rather formulaic win for the Dodgers, hitting the ball hard to back strong starting pitching.
Back-to-back home runs by Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernandez got the Dodgers the lead in the second inning off left-hander Framber Valdéz, part of the seven balls hit off Valdez with a 99-mph exit velocity or higher.
Corey Seager, who’s been hitting balls hard all season, scalded two balls against Valdez. He ripped a 105.2-mph triple in the third inning and scored on a sacrifice fly, then Seager’s 103.1-mph single in the fifth drove home Mookie Betts, who walked with two outs and advanced on a wild pitch.
It turns out, the Dodgers didn’t tack on enough runs.
Injuries have reduced the Dodgers rotation at the moment to three healthy starters, a used gum wrapper, and a paper clip. With a bullpen game on the docket for Sunday, it was imperative for Julio Urías to eat some innings on Saturday.
Most 6-inning starts, Dodgers
He delivered, even after a leadoff double and two-out single tallied his eighth first-inning run in nine starts. After that, Urías allowed only one more hit and worked around four walks to keep the Astros off the board for any more damage through six innings.
After the first inning this season, Urías has allowed nine runs in 34⅓ innings, a 2.36 ERA.
Urías has lasted at least six innings four times this season, tying Clayton Kershaw for the team lead. His 96 pitches were the third-most of his career, and his most since August 21, 2016.
“It was a well-played baseball game,” Roberts said. “We just didn’t finish it out.”
Home runs: Chris Taylor (4), Kiké Hernandez (5)
WP — Josh James (1-0): 1⅓ IP, zeroes
LP — Kenley Jansen (3-1): 0 IP, 5 hits, 5 runs (4 earned)
Sv — Ryan Pressly (9): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 strikeout
Sunday is another evening start (5:08 p.m., ESPN), with the Dodgers going with a bullpen game against old friend Zack Greinke.