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Lights-out bullpen saving Dodgers in NLCS

Relievers haven't allowed a hit in eight innings of work
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- At the risk of jinxing it, the Dodgers' bullpen has a no-hitter through eight innings of work during the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

NLCS Game 3: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET/6 PT on TBS

View Full Game Coverage

LOS ANGELES -- At the risk of jinxing it, the Dodgers' bullpen has a no-hitter through eight innings of work during the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

NLCS Game 3: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET/6 PT on TBS

View Full Game Coverage

Starters going deep? Needless. The Dodgers have two wins over the Cubs with starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill throwing five innings each. Neither was around long enough to get victories, which went to Kenta Maeda in Game 1 and Kenley Jansen in Game 2, in Sunday night's 4-1 win on Justin Turner's three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth.

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"It's not necessarily a pitch count thing for any of our guys," manager Dave Roberts said of the quick hooks for the starters, even Kershaw, in the postseason. "You're essentially counting outs and trying to get the best matchup for your guys. It goes back to the trust that we have in our 'pen and for each of our starters. It's a matter of giving everything you have for as long as you can."

Until Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch with one out in the ninth, the bullpen had retired 22 consecutive batters, the longest streak by any team's bullpen to begin any postseason series in history, according to Elias -- and five more than the previous record held by the 1996 Rangers in the AL Division Series.

Dress for NLCS: Get Dodgers postseason gear

"They're just executing pitches and they're ready when called upon and they're competing," said Roberts. "It's a close-knit group down there. Josh Bard, our bullpen coach, has done a fantastic job with those guys, along with [pitching coach] Rick Honeycutt. And just the preparation. Those guys know exactly what they want to do, and they're going out there and executing."

And it's not just Jansen, though he's duplicating his workhorse showcase of last October with six of seven outs by strikeout. In Game 2, Brandon Morrow followed Hill with two perfect innings after retiring both batters he faced Saturday night. Morrow got six outs with 18 pitches. It took Cubs starter Jon Lester 103 pitches to get 14 outs.

Video: NLCS Gm2: Jansen strikes out two, earns the win

"The velocity is plus-plus, and the slider plus-plus," Roberts said of Morrow, whose fastball average has jumped three miles an hour after four years of injuries. "So now you take those components as far as the head, the preparation, the feel, and the pitch mix, that makes an elite back-end guy.

After Morrow, Josh Fields got his lone batter out, Tony Watson got his two to get the ball to Jansen. Maeda was warming up in the bullpen if the game went extra innings, even though it would have been his first appearances in his career on back-to-back days.

Video: NLCS Gm2: Morrow strikes out Contreras swinging

Of course, everything funnels to Jansen, who is looking like an $80 million free-agent bargain. Roberts said there were times in the season when he gave the closer a breather to keep him fresh enough to be the important cog in these showcases.

"There have been times you look back in the season and Kenley was down," Roberts said. "And as a manager, that's not a good feeling, essentially to make that decision prior to the game that your closer's not going to pitch even in a save situation. But taking the long view, that's something that we believe as an organization."

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

Los Angeles Dodgers, Kenley Jansen, Brandon Morrow