LOS ANGELES -- For the second consecutive night, the Dodgers entered the ninth inning with a lead against the Giants. For the second consecutive night, Kenley Jansen wasn’t able to shut the door.
Jansen allowed four runs in the ninth and blew his third consecutive game as the Dodgers dropped three of four to the Giants with a 5-3 loss on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are now three games behind first-place San Francisco in the National League West standings.
It was the first time since at least 1974 that the Dodgers lost back-to-back games to the Giants when having a lead in the ninth inning.
“It’s a big series, it’s Dodgers-Giants,” said Dodgers ace Walker Buehler, who allowed one run over 7 1/3 innings. “These stink to lose. We want to win, we want to play well. I think we’ve played well both nights, it just hasn’t gone our way.”
The top of the ninth was as bizarre of an inning as you’ll see this season. Jansen, who threw 27 pitches on Wednesday, began his outing with a Mike Yastrzemski strikeout, but it was clear that the right-hander still didn’t possess the same command he displayed in the first half of the season.
San Francisco took advantage of some of Jansen’s wildness, loading the bases with two outs. Still, Jansen did enough to induce what appeared to be the game-winning outcome on multiple occasions. Except it wasn’t.
With the Dodgers holding on to a two-run lead, Jansen got Thairo Estrada to ground to shortstop, which should’ve ended the game. However, Chris Taylor’s throw to second base took a little longer than he would’ve liked and Sheldon Neuse didn’t do enough to fully stretch out and make sure the final out was recorded at second. That allowed Jason Vosler to reach safely, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2.
“Sheldon is a heck of a ballplayer, heck of a defensive player,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “But I think right there, in that situation, if we stretch, we get the guy. But that’s part of baseball.”
Even with the missed play at second, the Dodgers and Jansen still had a chance to win the game. On the very next at-bat, it appeared Jansen got Darin Ruf to strike out on a check swing. But first-base umpire Ed Hickox ruled that Ruf didn’t check his swing and it was instead ball four, allowing the Giants to tie the game at 3.
That resulted in Roberts storming out of the dugout to argue the call. He was ejected for the second consecutive game.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that he went and the game should’ve been over,” Roberts said. “Eddie is a really good umpire, he’s been around for a long time. But in that spot, two contending teams, you just can’t miss that call. The game should’ve been over, there’s just no other way to look at it.”
The game wasn’t over, however, and the Giants took advantage of the missed call. One pitch later, with Jansen still on the mound, LaMonte Wade Jr. continued his strong season against the Dodgers, hitting a go-ahead two-run single to give the Giants a 5-3 lead.
At the point of the at-bat against Wade, Jansen had thrown 32 pitches and 59 in a 24-hour span. Even with that, Roberts said they liked the matchup against Wade, instead of going to right-hander Phil Bickford, who was warming up in the bullpen.
“I just felt that Kenley, at that point in time, had the weapons to get Wade out,” Roberts said. “And again, the game should’ve been over, man. I don’t think the blame should all be on Kenley at all.”
As Roberts said, the bulk of the blame shouldn’t be on Jansen, but the closer certainly played a role in the loss. There’s no doubt that the Dodgers are a better team when Jansen is efficient in his closer’s role, much like he was all throughout the first half. But it hasn’t been pretty lately.
He’s been the best reliever for the Dodgers this season, but has given up eight runs in his last three save appearances. Jansen’s velocity was also inconsistent on Thursday, which is common for him on the second night of back-to-back outings. Roberts, however, reiterated that Jansen will remain the team’s closer moving forward and they’re still not considering any options.
“Kenley has been great for us all year,” said Dodgers catcher Will Smith. “He’s been our closer, he’s been dominant and we couldn’t have asked anything more from him. All of us go through times where it doesn’t go our way.”
While the Dodgers are sticking with Jansen, they’re going to have to bounce back from an emotional two nights against the Giants. They were hoping to be on top of the division by the end of the four-game series. Instead, they’re three games out following two heartbreakers.
“There’s a lot of people that are really pissed off, and I'm leading the way,” Roberts said. “We should’ve won that game and it’s a game we really wanted, we had, and we didn’t [win].”