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Bellinger hits HR No. 45 but Jansen struggles

@kengurnick
September 19, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- Cody Bellinger ended his homer drought, Max Muncy looked healthy doubling in two runs, Julio Urías pitched in back-to-back games for the first time this year and rookie Dustin May fired two scoreless innings. Of course, ground zero for the media Wednesday night was the locker of

LOS ANGELES -- Cody Bellinger ended his homer drought, Max Muncy looked healthy doubling in two runs, Julio Urías pitched in back-to-back games for the first time this year and rookie Dustin May fired two scoreless innings.

Of course, ground zero for the media Wednesday night was the locker of Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen, who suffered a career-high eighth blown save in a game the Dodgers went on to lose to Tampa Bay in 11 innings, 8-7.

Box score

“I didn’t have it today. I sucked,” Jansen said after backsliding from three solid outings by allowing a pair of runs in the ninth inning. “You can’t control the outcome. Yes, the command wasn’t what it was the last three games, but you just can’t let this one frustrate you.”

There were frustrations. With one out in the ninth, Tommy Pham singled for one of his five hits, then stole second base. Jansen, whose command once was pinpoint, walked Matt Duffy. He thought he had Ji-Man Choi struck out (Statcast seemed to agree with Jansen), but didn’t get the call from plate umpire Adrian Johnson and Choi singled home Pham. Duffy scored on a sacrifice fly.

“Shouldn’t walk Duffy,” said Jansen. “I’m not going to complain about no umpires. I walked Duffy, that was the tying run.”

Jansen was pitching on back-to-back nights for the first time since Aug. 9-10, coming off a four-out save, but he said that had nothing to do with his lack of command. He was the eighth of nine Dodgers relievers used by manager Dave Roberts, who scratched his announced starter for the second consecutive game (this time Tony Gonsolin) and went with an opener. Casey Sadler, who lasted only two-thirds of an inning.

“The walk to Duffy is something that can’t happen,” Roberts said of Jansen. “I thought he got squeezed on the Choi pitch. It flipped the inning. Didn’t have the command he had the last few times out, and when you don’t, you get exposed. I don’t think it was a setback. Kenley’s in a good place.”

Roberts said he’s “not entertaining” the thought of replacing Jansen as the closer. He’s seen virtually his entire bullpen the past two games and there are flaws aplenty. Pedro Báez and Kenta Maeda allowed a home run each Tuesday night. Joe Kelly was greeted by a single that brought home a runner inherited from Urías on Wednesday night, when Gonsolin was roughed up for a couple of runs and lasted only two innings in relief.

Nonetheless, with Atlanta’s defeat, the Dodgers’ magic number was reduced to four for clinching home-field advantage over the Braves if they reach the National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers nearly pulled off a 13th walk-off win in the bottom of the 11th when Corey Seager singled, Will Smith reached base on right fielder Guillermo Heredia’s error and Edwin Ríos singled home Seager. But pinch-hitter Russell Martin ended the game with a strikeout.

“We had a chance,” said Roberts. “Winning run on first base. Our guys didn’t quit.”

Bellinger snapped his 12-game homer drought with No. 45 in the eighth inning.

“Cody got beat on a fastball earlier and they tried to go to the well one too many times and he beat it to the spot and got the barrel to it and kept it fair,” Roberts said of the home run that hit the foul pole. “He’s been working really hard to clean things up with his bat path.”

Muncy, who had been 1-for-15 since returning from a broken right wrist, doubled in the first two Dodgers runs and scored the club’s third run. Urías, handled delicately since 2017 shoulder surgery, pitched on back-to-back nights for the first time this year, striking out the side in his one inning.

May’s bid for a postseason spot was interrupted by the line drive off his head in Arizona, as he’d had only four appearances since Aug. 26. He pitched out of a jam in the seventh and got help in the eighth when fellow rookie Will Smith gunned down Avasail Garcia trying to steal second.

“Dustin’s really grown quickly,” said Roberts. “We’re kind of accelerating his runway and putting him in some spots and seeing how he responds and he’s making big pitches when he needs to. For a young pitcher to make pitches against really good hitters, playoff-contending teams, every time he goes out there, you like it more and more.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.