LOS ANGELES -- Over the last two weeks, the Dodgers have had a pair of opportunities to tie the Giants atop the National League West standings but haven’t been able to finish things off.
Through eight innings on Wednesday, it looked like the Dodgers were finally going to even things up against San Francisco for the first time since April 28. Kenley Jansen was scheduled to pitch the ninth and the Dodgers were set to become the first team to 60 wins this season.
But then the Giants flipped the script, as Wilmer Flores launched a go-ahead two-run homer off Jansen and the Dodgers dropped the third game of the series, 4-2, at Dodger Stadium. It was Jansen’s first blown save against the Giants at Dodger Stadium since Sept. 12, 2013.
“Obviously, it wasn’t a good one today,” said Jansen, who entered with a 2-1 lead, allowed Flores' two-run homer and was charged with another run after exiting. “I didn’t get my job done today. I’m gonna focus on getting back tomorrow. I work my butt off and, at the end of the day, I’m going to come out here and compete and help the Dodgers win a ballgame. Today wasn’t a great day and we’ll move on from it.”
The blown save was the fourth of the season for Jansen, who bounced back from a shaky 2020 with a spectacular first half. In the second half, however, Jansen is not off to an ideal start. Jansen blew a save against the Rockies on Sunday and Wednesday was arguably the right-hander’s worst performance of the season.
“I think he said it right, I think he just didn’t have his best stuff,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “No one’s more frustrated than Kenley because he expects a lot of himself. We just have to keep going and continue to put ourselves in position to win a baseball game.”
When it comes to velocity, everything checked out for Jansen. His sinker and cutter were right around his season averages, though his slider dipped a couple of miles per hour. His command, however, wasn’t anywhere near where it’s been all season, especially with his signature cutter. Flores’ two-run homer in the ninth was the first homer allowed by Jansen on the cutter this season.
The command didn’t get much better after the homer, either. Jansen walked two and loaded the bases before exiting the game having recorded just one out. He threw 27 pitches, only 14 for strikes.
“I try and prepare the best that I can and obviously, today wasn’t a great day,” Jansen said. “I’ll be prepared again tomorrow. They got me today and we’ll move forward and we’ll be better tomorrow.”
As Jansen walked off the mound, he was greeted with boos from the home crowd, something that has happened in previous seasons when he has struggled. Jansen shrugged off the boos, but Roberts was admittedly bothered by it.
“The fans certainly have the right to voice their frustrations. I get that,” Roberts said. “No one hurts more than he does, to be quite honest. He’s worked really hard to kind of get back and should’ve been an All-Star this season.”
As Roberts mentioned, Jansen has been one of the best closers in the Majors this season and made a strong case to be an NL All-Star this season. At this point, the Dodgers won’t entertain the idea of giving another reliever the closer’s role. That role belongs to Jansen and it’s difficult to see a scenario in which that changes anytime soon.
In the meantime, the Dodgers are going to have to find a way to get past the Giants in the NL West. San Francisco wasn’t expected to contend this season, but they’re currently the team standing in the way of the Dodgers and their ninth consecutive division title.
The Dodgers came into the four-game series with hopes of having a division lead going into the weekend. Now they’re just hoping they can salvage a series split on Thursday.
“Both teams are battling and giving 100 percent to try and win the division,” Dodgers starter Julio Urías said in Spanish. “We know it’s going to be difficult, but we have the experience and the confidence that we’re going to come here tomorrow and get a win.”