WASHINGTON -- As soon as Clayton Kershaw departed after five innings in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, it became clear this was going to be no easy night for the Dodgers. That notion crystallized when, after striking out as a hitter in the top of the ninth
WASHINGTON -- As soon as Clayton Kershaw departed after five innings in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, it became clear this was going to be no easy night for the Dodgers. That notion crystallized when, after striking out as a hitter in the top of the ninth inning, Kenley Jansen lumbered back to the mound for his run through the gauntlet: Trea Turner, Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth in a one-run game.
A strikeout, a lineout and another whiff later, Jansen earned a five-out save in a 4-3 Dodgers win over the Nationals that featured no scoring whatsoever after the fourth.
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"When starters go five, we never complain about it," said Jansen, who would have been available for Game 2 on Saturday, which was postponed by rain to Sunday (1 p.m. ET/10 PT, FS1). "We just go out there and do the job."
At first glance, Friday's effort may not have seemed strange for the Dodgers, whose relievers led the Majors in both ERA (3.35) and innings pitched (590 2/3, or an average of around 11 outs per game) during the regular season.
But things tend to unfold chaotically in October -- particularly this October, with managers throughout baseball redefining traditional bullpen usage -- when starting pitchers contribute less than their best. So of all people it was Joe Blanton, typically a setup man, who warmed in the fifth and entered in the sixth.
"If you've watched the playoffs so far, bullpens are being used a lot differently than they have in the past," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. "In the playoffs, it comes down to important outs, and you want your guys to get those outs regardless of what time of the game it is."
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In the middle-to-late innings of this one, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts mixed and matched, turning to Grant Dayton and Pedro Báez and finally Jansen. Only once in the past three seasons had Jansen previously recorded a five-out save, mowing down the D-backs on 18 pitches earlier this season on April 13.
Friday proved more complicated. After Jansen worked around a double in the eighth inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases in the top of the ninth, forcing him to hit for the fifth time in his career. He then returned to the mound, retiring Turner and Harper before striking out Werth on an 85-mph slider.
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That was Jansen's 27th and final pitch of the night. His first 26 were all cut fastballs.
"Kenley kept making good pitches," Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "[Werth] kept fouling them off, and that's what veteran guys do -- they foul off pitches until they get their pitch and then they go to town on it. We were just good enough to make a really good pitch where he swung and missed."
Thus culminated the bullpen's highest-leverage stretch to date -- the final four innings of a one-run postseason game. One of several players to credit the bullpen specifically, Kershaw called the effort "a complete team win," while Roberts said it's the type of game the Dodgers have trained all year to play.
Because of that, it shouldn't have any ill effects on Los Angeles' bullpen going forward. The only other time Jansen recorded five outs in a game this season, he returned to grab a save the next day.
"We know it's going to come down to us to [carry] this team farther and farther," Jansen said, acknowledging the bullpen's responsibility.
Added Roberts: "Obviously, tonight was not the start we had envisioned for Clayton. But for Joe to come in, Grant, Pedy, and obviously Kenley ... that five-out save right there was big."
Anthony DiComo has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.