CHICAGO -- He's a Dodgers pitcher, he's a beast, and he's not even named Clayton Kershaw.He's Kenley Jansen, a throwback to another generation, who came into Thursday night's National League Division Series clincher with the Nationals in the seventh inning, made a career-high 51 pitches, and was warming up again
CHICAGO -- He's a Dodgers pitcher, he's a beast, and he's not even named Clayton Kershaw.
He's Kenley Jansen, a throwback to another generation, who came into Thursday night's National League Division Series clincher with the Nationals in the seventh inning, made a career-high 51 pitches, and was warming up again in the seventh inning Sunday night, eventually delivering a two-inning save of the Dodgers' crucial 1-0 win over the Cubs in Game 2 of the NL Championship Series.
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He struck out four to secure Kershaw's workhorse win and deadlock the series at a game apiece. He's the first Dodgers reliever to record a six-out save in a postseason game since Jay Howell the night before the Dodgers clinched the 1988 World Series.
"To me, it's just focus," he said. "To see Kersh throw seven innings and put the team on his back, I want to go out there and finish it up. It gives me even more energy."
And, there was no zany celebration from Jansen for the final out.
"That's the way I am, just take care of business," Jansen said. "I don't like being flashy. [If we win the World Series], definitely, but we got to get there first. Got a lot of games left in this round."
And if Jansen is pitching in them, that's good for the Dodgers, even though this postseason is also serving as a showcase for the closer with a tight end's body, who will be a free agent after his first All-Star season.
Is Jansen pleased he's finally getting recognition after being overshadowed in recent years by Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, et al.?
"I really don't care, man," Jansen said. "Just help the team win and get to the World Series. We've been talking a lot about it the last four years in Spring Training. To us, right now, all we're focused on is winning ballgames. We got to put pressure on them.
"To me, at the end of the day you can make as much money in the game, but you just want to get a ring. Here we are with the opportunity to get a ring, that's all I'm thinking, to win a World Series. Us and the other three teams left want to do the same thing. That's all I care about."
If this game had been in the regular season, Joe Blanton would have followed Kershaw's seven scoreless innings in the eighth, with Jansen pitching the ninth. But this isn't the regular season and Blanton served up a game-losing grand slam the night before. Manager Dave Roberts had already shared his multiple-inning strategy with Jansen before the game.
Kershaw, a perfect one-for-one in save opportunities, praised the team's other closer.
"Yeah, you can't say enough about Kenley, really for since he's been in the big leagues, but since he became a closer, " he said. "And it's one thing to have dominant stuff, which he does, but the willingness and the want-to that he has, the competitiveness that you're seeing right now that I've really seen throughout. Like he really wants the ball. A lot of people say that, but to actually go out there and do it night-in, night-out, two-out saves and/or two-inning saves and coming in the seventh in Game 5, just all that stuff, that's what makes him special, more so than even the really nasty cutter that he throws."
Jansen said he had no trouble bouncing back from his 51-pitch outing in Washington, doing extra running and weightlifting during the two days he didn't pitch. He's has had one blemish this postseason, when he allowed the Nationals four runs in the ninth inning of an 8-3 loss in Game 3 of the NLDS, which catcher Yasmani Grandal said only made Jansen even better.
"With the Nationals, he had that one bad game," Grandal said. "The thing about Kenley, if you have a good game against him, you should be scared next time you see him. He's going to come in there and he's going to be mad and come right at you."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.