Jansen's presence is vital to Dodgers' success
ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers have won 15 of the games Clayton Kershaw has pitched this season, and 20 of the games Zack Greinke has pitched.
But where would they be without the 45 games that Kenley Jansen has pitched (40 of them victories)?
They wouldn't be 8 1/2 games in front in the National League West with a Magic Number of 16, which is where they are after Kershaw got the victory and Jansen the save in Tuesday night's 6-4 win over the Angels.
"He's the definition of a stopper," catcher A.J. Ellis said of Jansen, whose 31st save was secured when he struck out Kole Calhoun after taking over for Pedro Baez, who started the ninth inning with a four-run lead but allowed back-to-back doubles while Jansen was watching from the bullpen mound before heating up in a hurry.
"I really didn't want to," manager Don Mattingly said of bringing in Jansen for his fourth game in the last five days. "We knew he could pitch tonight, but it's one of those situations where we'd rather not. But you have to do what you have to do."
Mattingly is likely to become the first Dodgers manager to finish in first place three consecutive seasons, and Jansen is one of the main reasons. He has 103 saves in that span and 137 in his career, 24 shy of Eric Gagne's franchise record.
"On nights like tonight, he puts out the fire and allows you to win a game," said Ellis. "I just know he's really good every time he comes in. There aren't that many guys who can close year after year after year, only a couple in baseball right now, and Kenley does it with mostly one pitch. It says a lot about that pitch and says a lot about his confidence and ability to attack."
Jansen and his Mariano Rivera-like cut fastball have been the mainstay of an erratic bullpen that has been unable to isolate one candidate as the go-to right-handed setup bridge to get to Jansen.
Mattingly even had to fight off persistent pregame inquiries about new alternatives that might somehow materialize, as if one could just be ordered online.
"Hey, this is it," he said. "What are you going to say to that? How do I answer that? [Goose] Gossage isn't walking out of that 'pen."
In this game, Juan Nicasio walked out of the bullpen and pitched a scoreless eighth inning, as Chris Hatcher had pitched three of the previous four days. Mattingly opened the ninth with Baez pitching and Jansen watching from the bullpen mound, but two batters later Jansen was called on.
Jansen believes he's stronger than usual at this time of year because he missed the first six weeks of the season healing from left foot surgery.
"Everything happens for a reason," he said. "I was bummed out that I couldn't pitch, but I've thrown a lot the last three years and I kind of feel a little bit stronger now."