ARLINGTON, Texas – After pulling out of the last dough with a 94 mph fast Friday night and hitting the side, Kenley Jansen stared at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout with an intensity rarely seen from that naked right-handed. The meaning behind it, Jansen said, was basically, “Let’s go!”
For the rest of the Dodgers, it represented something else: Kenley Jansen – the good Kenley Jansen – is back.
Jansen recorded the final three outs in 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 cushion of his Friday trips, representing his first save since the Dodgers̵
“If we want to get where we want to be and hold that trophy at the end of the year, we’ll need him,” said Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner. “He’s going to be a big part of it. Two huge outings, not just for us, but for him personally. And you can just see the confidence he has on the mound, attacking guys. It’s Kenley Jansen me and all of us in there. knows and loves. “
Jansen was not bad this season – he finished with a 3.33 ERA, 33 strikeouts and nine times in 24 1/3 innings – but once again he was not consistently dominant. The speed of his cutter began to deepen below 90 mph towards the end of the regular season, and he began the playoffs on unstable footing.
After failing to protect 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-leverage situations. His next appearance was with a 14-run lead in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. But Roberts noticed a smoother, more repetitive delivery in this outing. After hitting out for an easy four-run lead in the ninth inning of Game 4, Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager saw someone pitching with confidence again.
On Saturday, Jansen threw his cutter 90 to 91 mph and mixed it with a two-seamer approaching the mid-90s.
“The game honors him,” Roberts said of Jansen. “I could not be more happy and proud of him.”
Jansen has spent the last few weeks searching to get his upper half and his lower half in sync, a constant problem for someone with a 6-foot-5, 265-pound frame. A few days ago, through conversations with longtime pitcher Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt, who both still have ties to the organization, Jansen was able to rediscover the pure, simple delivery of his early years. The consistency, he thinks, is starting to come.
“There are no roles in the playoffs,” Jansen said when asked to be temporarily removed when the team is closer. “It’s ‘When can you be in the best position to help your team win?’ I’ve been here a long time and it’s nothing else to call here with the organization.It’s the last thing I feel I need to achieve here.We want it.We want it for everyone and the fans deserve it and it’s about winning a championship here. “