MILWAUKEE -- Before Saturday's game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, reflecting on Kenley Jansen's two-inning win Friday night, said last year's workhorse postseason unlocked something within that his closer didn't know he had.
On Saturday, Jansen found one more inning Roberts didn't think he had. Roberts had said Jansen was unavailable, but there he was in the ninth inning, locking down the save in a wild 10-8 comeback win over the Brewers.
"I just told Doc [that] if something crazy happens, I'll be mentally ready," Jansen said of his conversation with Roberts.
Crazy things happened the entire game. Rich Hill set it all in motion with a four-inning start, putting Roberts up against it after Jansen and Pedro Baez pitched two innings apiece in Friday night's 12-inning strikeout fest. The Dodgers took a 4-3 lead with, among other things, seven stolen bases, their most since 1999. Then Milwaukee roared back when Chris Hatcher walked the bases loaded and Josh Fields allowed back-to-back home runs in the seventh, including a grand slam by Travis Shaw.
Brandon Morrow restored order by striking out the side in an easy to overlook bottom of the eighth inning. Down 8-5 going into the ninth, the Dodgers loaded the bases on a walk by Corey Seager, a throwing error by first baseman Jesus Aguilar on Yasmani Grandal's grounder and a single by pinch-hitter Austin Barnes, which got the Dodger dugout on the phone with the bullpen. Jansen was warm by the time Chris Taylor's grand slam nearly went through the batter's eye in center.
"He said his arm felt good and for me, I trust him," said Roberts. "The last 10 days, he's been used three times. His usage is down -- granted, two innings last night -- but if there was a save opportunity, we wanted to use him. He said he felt good enough to close the game and I took him at his word."
Said Jansen: "I tell Doc before the game -- he's the manager and after two innings last night I totally understand that it's a long season and he's taking care of us. I have no problem when he says I'm down.
"That's why he called down and got me going. When the bases got loaded and Barnes got the hit to left field, I was ready and I just go out and try to do my best and close the door."
Jansen is 9-for-9 in save opportunities, but as demonstrated Friday night, his role has become so much more than a one-inning closer. The high-leverage usage, though, is only bringing out the best in Jansen, who extended his MLB record to start a season with a 40th strikeout without a walk. His ERA is 1.17.
Jansen agreed with his manager that last year's postseason has taken his confidence to a new level.
"I definitely got to know myself," he said. "I throw 2 1/3 innings in the clinching game [against Washington in the National League Division Series], three innings against the Cubs [in the NL Championship Series finale], stuff I never did. And that stuff, you just feed off from it and get better and you want to know how good can you be."