LOS ANGELES -- It's been a while, but -- contrary to what you may have heard -- Clayton Kershaw's remarkable save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday wasn't exactly a first.Kenley Jansen -- the man Kershaw replaced in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 4-3
LOS ANGELES -- It's been a while, but -- contrary to what you may have heard -- Clayton Kershaw's remarkable save in Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday wasn't exactly a first.
Kenley Jansen -- the man Kershaw replaced in the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 4-3 victory -- might recall the last one.
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After all, Jansen was behind the plate in 2006 when Kershaw recorded his only other save as a professional pitcher, in rookie ball for the Gulf Coast League Dodgers.
That's right: Jansen, then a catcher in the Dodgers system, caught Kershaw's scoreless ninth inning on Aug. 19, 2006 -- against the Gulf Coast League Nationals, no less. His arm served him well against the Nationals, as he tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out Anthony Rendon with the bases loaded to end the seventh.
The stakes between the two franchises were a bit higher on Thursday with a berth in the National League Championship Series against the Cubs on the line. Jansen -- converted to a pitcher in 2009 and has served as the Dodgers closer since '12.
"That's the best pitcher in the game, and we know he wanted it so bad," Jansen said afterward. "... To see Kersh put his cleats on and get the last two outs, that was something."
It marked Kershaw's first relief appearance since Game 5 of the 2009 ALCS against Philadelphia. In the regular season, he's only come out of the bullpen twice, but not since his second year.
Kershaw pitched four times four times in relief in the Minor Leagues -- twice to Jansen in 2006 and twice for Double-A Jacksonville in '08.
When the Dodgers needed it most, Kershaw turned back the clock.
"Once Kenley went out there in the seventh, I was just kind of doing the math," Kershaw said. "I don't think Kenley's ever done a six-out save, let alone a nine-out save. He threw 20 pitches in that seventh inning, and I just said, 'I'm going to go get loose, see how I feel, and I'll let you know. But I might be able to do this.'"
Indeed, Kershaw was up for the challenge, earning the save by getting Daniel Murphy to pop up before striking out Wilmer Difo to set off a Dodgers celebration that will last all the way to Chicago.
AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.