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Dodgers build dominant bridge to Jansen

LA's bullpen has allowed two runs in 28 1/3 innings this postseason
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Ross Stripling, Grant Dayton, Chris Hatcher and Luis Avilan. Those were the relievers on the Dodgers' Opening Day roster this season.

Jansen and Stripling were the only two included on their roster for the National League Division Series.

LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Ross Stripling, Grant Dayton, Chris Hatcher and Luis Avilan. Those were the relievers on the Dodgers' Opening Day roster this season.

Jansen and Stripling were the only two included on their roster for the National League Division Series.

:: World Series schedule and coverage ::

The Dodgers overhauled their bullpen thanks to Brandon Morrow's breakout season, the Trade Deadline additions of left-handers Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, and Kenta Maeda joining the relief corps from the starting rotation.

Heading into the World Series presented by YouTube TV, Los Angeles' bullpen has been lights out this postseason to the tune of a 0.83 ERA, having walked only two batters in 28 1/3 innings and setting a postseason record with 23 straight scoreless frames.

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

They've also made the bridge to get to Jansen much easier, and Clayton Kershaw and the rest of the Dodgers' rotation can rest a bit easier when manager Dave Roberts comes out of the dugout to take the ball.

Their roles are simple. Cingrani and Watson handle the lefties, Maeda is the "righty killer" and Morrow uses his fastball to set up the closer Jansen. The bullpen stifled the Cubs in the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World, tossing 17 scoreless innings with 22 strikeouts and one walk. Dodgers relievers retired 52 of 58 batters they faced.

"I think everybody knows on our team when they come in the game, it's a really good feeling," Kershaw said. "That's awesome to have. It's such a luxury. And all the way down, every single guy in the bullpen has been rock solid for us."

What makes them so successful? Cingrani credits the Dodgers' analytics staff for the amount of information they receive and how easy it is to digest. After the southpaw was acquired from the Reds, the club suggested he throw his slider more to lefties, which he's done effectively in the postseason to get out left-handed hitters when called upon.

"They do a very good job of knowing our strengths," Cingrani said. "Basically, the results, they speak for all that preparation."

Video: LAD@ARI Gm3: Cingrani coaxes a key double play

Then there's Maeda.

The Dodgers' starter-turned-reliever has also used his slider to whiff opposing hitters. His fastball velocity also has ticked up to 96 mph since moving to the bullpen. In five postseason games, Maeda hasn't thrown more than 12 pitches in an appearance and has retired every batter he has faced while striking out seven.

"The numbers said before that he kills righties," Morrow said about Maeda. "You don't expect that to change, you expect it to [get] better in the bullpen. The most impressive thing is the way he locates his slider, it's so hard and sharp. He paints it like a fastball."

Video: LAD@ARI Gm3: Maeda fans Iannetta to end the frame

Morrow, a former starter, become the Dodgers' setup man after Pedro Baez's regular-season struggles. Morrow didn't make the Dodgers' Opening Day roster after signing a Minor League deal in the offseason. He finished the regular season without giving up a homer and didn't allow one until Game 2 of the NLDS.

"We've just had a really sharp focus," Morrow said.

Video: NLCS Gm5: Morrow whiffs Schwarber swinging in the 8th

Their success has also made life easier for Jansen. The Dodgers' All-Star closer was prepared to pitch multiple innings this postseason as he did in 2016, but his fellow relievers have been so efficient that he has been asked to get more than three outs only twice heading into Game 1 of the Fall Classic.

"It takes a lot of pressure off the starters," Jansen said. "And it takes innings and pressure off me, like, 'Hey, you know what? These guys can do the job.'"

Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Tony Cingrani, Kenley Jansen, Kenta Maeda, Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson