Jansen blows save: 'This feels terrible'
Ghosts of 2017 were all over Dodger Stadium on Saturday night, when Kenley Jansen blew a three-run lead by allowing five runs in the ninth inning and the Astros stormed to a 7-5 win over the Dodgers.
Julio Urías’ bullpen-saving six innings were undermined when Jansen was unable to retire any of the six batters he faced. Barely two weeks remain before the postseason and Dave Roberts, managing the team with the best record in baseball, is being asked how long the leash is on his award-winning fireman.
“As far as leash, he’s our closer,” said Roberts. “But obviously, performance matters, it does. And everyone in that clubhouse understands that.”
Jansen was National League Closer of the Month way back in August. But on Tuesday night in Arizona he allowed three runs and a homer, when Roberts said Jansen was “scattered” with his pitches. Saturday night Jansen was getting ahead in nearly every count, “but just couldn’t put guys away.”
Jansen -- whose ERA spiked from 1.06 to 3.93 in two outings -- said he turned the page on Tuesday, but that Saturday was “just a nightmare.”
“I can’t execute pitches to put them away and it’s just frustrating,” said Jansen. “I’m ahead of the count on everyone and just didn’t execute like I used to. It’s unacceptable. This feels terrible.”
Jansen knows most of these Astros. He saved two games in the 2017 World Series, but also blew a save in Game 2 and took the crushing loss in Game 5. He pitched scoreless innings in both Dodgers wins in Houston earlier this season, including Joe Kelly’s infamous purpose-pitch with a pout performance for which Kelly is currently serving a five-game suspension, leaving the staff short-handed.
But as reassuring as it was for Urías to step up on the eve of a bullpen game forced by injuries to starters Walker Buehler and Dustin May, Jansen jumping the tracks gives the club a critical area of concern with October approaching.
If Jansen isn’t the closer, Blake Treinen is the only other current Dodgers pitcher with a successful closer history. Brusdar Graterol is a fan favorite because he throws 101 mph, but he’s 22 and has been withheld from high-leverage situations.
With Houston having lost eight of its previous nine, this game appeared in hand when Jansen followed Treinen, the primary setup man who allowed an eighth-inning run.
Initially reaching only 89 mph with his cutter, Jansen got ahead of Carlos Correa 0-1, but Correa singled to left. Jansen jumped ahead 0-2 on Aledmys Diaz, who fouled off two pitches then singled to left. Former Dodgers teammate Josh Reddick swung and missed a cutter to go to 1-2, but laced a two-run double on a four-seam fastball. Martín Maldonado singled Reddick to third on a 1-0 four-seamer. George Springer lashed an 0-2 cutter through third baseman Max Muncy for an error (exit velocity 101.4 mph) that scored Reddick, and Alex Bregman chased Jansen with a soft RBI single on a 1-2 slider.
“He kept missing middle-middle and those guys kept moving the line and putting hits together,” said Roberts. “I know he’s in a good head space and he’s healthy, so we just got to continue to give him confidence and expect him to go out there and close out games for us.”