Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Even in slump, Dodgers remained confident

NL champs didn't flinch despite losing 16 of 17 late in season
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen laughed whenever a reporter asked if he was worried when the Dodgers lost 16 of 17 games.

"It's for you guys to make it a dramatic thing that we lost 16 of 17," Jansen said of the media. "We know we're good."

LOS ANGELES -- Kenley Jansen laughed whenever a reporter asked if he was worried when the Dodgers lost 16 of 17 games.

"It's for you guys to make it a dramatic thing that we lost 16 of 17," Jansen said of the media. "We know we're good."

:: World Series schedule and coverage ::

Good enough to end the Dodgers' 29-year absence from the Fall Classic, which opens at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations and architect of the pennant-winning roster, said the front office and staff wasn't panicked, either.

Dress for World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

"When we went through the funk, a little bit of the way into it, we had a serious conversation of how ultimately it would be a really good thing for this team," Friedman said. "Then it ended up lasting another seven or eight days, which is not as much fun, but throughout it, every day we came to the park, we thought that was the day it was going to end."

Friedman spread the credit for the professional way the club handled the drought, but first on his list was manager Dave Roberts.

"It took a little longer than we would have liked, but you couldn't tell it by Doc," Friedman said. "He'd communicate with the media twice a day. It would have been really easy at some point to crack, and he didn't at all. And it wasn't just his public persona. It was also the way he handled things in the clubhouse, and I think it rubbed off on the players. Their level of focus and preparation really didn't change.

"I think it's a testament to Doc, the coaches and our players that they didn't succumb to that pressure and become more tight and believe the narrative. They believed, too, that each day was going to be the end of it. It took longer than any of us would like, but I do think it was a good thing in the grand scheme of things."

Video: Dodgers presented with 2017 NL pennant trophy

Friedman said he was always confident that the sagging offense and starting pitching would rebound. But he conceded his anxiety level raised when the bullpen wobbled in September.

"That was the area that gave us the most concern, because they're tightrope walkers for a living," Friedman said. "And as their confidence is affected, that was our fear, the hangover from that. We knew we had enough runway left to get their confidence back and they were able to do that."

It took a reshuffling of supporting roles to get the ball safely to Jansen. Pedro Baez lost the setup job and Ross Stripling also wavered, but Brandon Morrow emerged for reliable eighth innings and Kenta Maeda embraced a move from the starting rotation to become a powerful middle-innings threat against right-handed sluggers. Trade Deadline acquisitions Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson came to the rescue when lefties Adam Liberatore, Grant Dayton and Luis Avilan were injured.

Hard to believe that the Opening Day bullpen included Sergio Romo, Alex Wood, Chris Hatcher, Dayton and Avilan -- not one of them was in the bullpen for the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

"Doc and the entire coaching staff, the way they were able to piece things together, there were a lot of moving parts in our bullpen, and right now they're as good as any in baseball," general manager Farhan Zaidi said.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers