It’s not as if Kenley Jansen has never done this closing business before. It’s not as if he hasn’t done it very well. He saved 25 games last season.
Yet even if his cutter is a couple of ticks slower than when he first burst upon the scene, Jansen has never seemed more dominant that he is right now.
Jansen is on a dream roll, attacking hitters and pitching with growing confidence. He has closed his last 10 consecutive save opportunities and almost looked better with each one.
He struck out the side Sunday to earn his 17th save of the season. He’s struck out 10 of his last 12. During his 10-save streak, he has a 1.10 earned-run average with 23 strikeouts, three walks and a plain stupid 0.55 WHIP.
When Manager Don Mattingly demoted Brandon League from the closer’s role and gave it to Jansen on June 11, it was less that Jansen’s great pitching demanded it than League’s lousy closing did.
Yet since then, Jansen has been almost unhittable. He had a 2.53 ERA and opponents were hitting .224 against him at the time of the switch; since then, he has a 1.42 ERA and opposing batters have hit .144.
It seems to have benefited League too. He had a 6.00 ERA at the time of his demotion, but has not allowed a run in his last seven appearances.
Meanwhile, Jansen is all business. Converted to a pitcher from a catcher in 2009, he has always maintained it didn’t matter what situation he pitched in. Yet his recent performance makes it clear, he is relishing his role as the closer.
And it’s a big reason why the Dodgers have gone from 9 1/2 games back to 5 1/2 up in the span of just 38 games.