On Thursday night, the
It was fitting, then, that the game between the Dodgers and Rangers came down to a battle of the bullpens.
After a pair of stellar performances from the starting pitchers sent the contest into the final two innings in a scoreless tie, it came down to which reliever broke first.
First, Los Angeles sent
Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers responded with a perfect inning of his own, picking up two Ks and not letting the ball leave the infield.
With an ice-cold offense looking unlikely to push across runs anytime soon, Don Mattingly made the decision to go with his closer,
With a dearth of save opportunities, Jansen has pitched infrequently this season, and he sits 26th in the majors with nine saves. But he came into the game sharp anyway, inducing a ground ball and striking out two in the heart of the Texas order.
"I just treat a tie like a one-run lead," Jansen said. "In that situation, you basically can't make any mistakes. I try to come in like it's a one-run lead, save the game and give our guys a chance to win it in the ninth."
Of Jansen's 16 pitches, 14 were cutters, but he still got four swinging strikes as well as two foul balls, something he credits to his improved location from last year.
Finally, in the bottom of the ninth, a closer cracked. Keone Kela, a 22-year-old right-hander with just one save this year, walked the first two batters, got a double play and then flinched ever so slightly when Kike Hernandez faked as if he was heading home from third.
It was Kela's first balk of the year, and the first walk-off balk, or "balk-off," as some were calling it, of 2015.