Kenley Jansen, Dodgers bullpen hold on for walk-off win over Texas Rangers

Kenley Jansen, Dodgers bullpen hold on for walk-off win over Texas Rangers
Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos talks with relief pitcher Koene Kela during the ninth inning of the Dodgers' 1-0 win over the Rangers on Thursday at Dodger Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

On Thursday night, the Dodgers commemorated Mike Marshall's 1974 Cy Young campaign with a celebratory pin. Marshall was the first relief pitcher to win the award, and he did it by appearing in 106 games, pitching more than 208 innings and posting a 2.42 ERA.

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 J.P. Howell to the mound in the top of the eighth. Howell, who has not surrendered a run all month, powered through the bottom two batters of the Texas order for two strikeouts. Then, against leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo, Howell worked his way to a 2-2 count before fooling Choo with an 87-mph sinker to strike out the side.

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, Kenley Jansen, in the top of the ninth of a tied game.

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.

"It's gotta be frustrating for [Kela]," Jansen said. "But we'll take it. We've been playing some tough games lately, and that's one thing you want to go your way."