The Dodgers had a nice cushion in the ninth inning, so when Kenley Jansen took the mound with a three-run lead in his first appearance since blowing a save on Wednesday, there wasn’t a threat of imminent danger. But given how good his stuff was on Sunday, it might not have mattered the situation he was in.
“Kenley today was something,” said Clayton Kershaw, who won with six scoreless innings. “I haven’t seen that Kenley — that was awesome. That’s a great sign for the Dodgers.”
Jansen struck out Luis Garcia looking on three pitches, then needed only four pitches to get Starlin Castro swinging. Yadiel Hernandez avoided the same fate by grounding back to the box on the first pitch, finishing off Jansen’s dominant inning.
“It was clearly his best outing of the year,” manager Dave Roberts said. “The command, the stuff was really good. Pitching to the top part of the zone, getting ahead of guys, getting the swing and miss. A really dominant outing.”
At this point we are only dealing with four appearances for Jansen this season, but in his first three games he averaged 90.3 mph on his cutter and 91.7 mph on his two-seam fastball. On Sunday, his five cutters averaged 93.5 mph and his three two-seam fastballs averaged 94.1 mph. A small sample size to be sure, but also eye-opening, to see those pitches with that movement, looking like the dominant 2017 version of Jansen.
“He’s been working really hard with the performance guys, Brandon McDaniel and his staff. Connor McGuiness has been good for him,” Roberts said. “He’s just been working real hard. Credit goes to Kenley, and it was really fun to see.”
Through 10 games, only twice has a Dodgers reliever pitched on back-to-back days, including Jansen on Tuesday and Wednesday, the latter his blown save. In both cases — Victor Gonzalez was the other on April 2-3 — the pitcher got three days rest before pitching again.
No Dodgers reliever has yet pitched three times in four days, which will be impossible to avoid over a long season. But knowing the Dodgers have closing options — Corey Knebel has retired 13 of 14 batters this season and Blake Treinen has been sharp, and both pitched scoreless innings Sunday — is a literal relief, both if Jansen falters or just keeping him from overuse.
Whatever it takes to get more outings from Jansen like Sunday’s.
With the win on Sunday, Kershaw’s career record improved to 177-77. Only eight pitchers in the divisional era (1969-present) have at least 100 more wins than losses: Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Jim Palmer, Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine.
“Just the product of being on great teams. I mean, that’s really all it is,” Kershaw said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be on Dodger teams that make the playoffs year after year, and we always win games. That’s really what I attribute it to.”