On Sunday morning, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen told Dave Roberts that his flu had faded. Jansen had pitched the first night of this series, but Roberts still felt cautious about his usage. The symptoms, as Jansen described them, were not pleasant, a combination of feverish nights and gastro-intestinal woes that began just after the All-Star game.
But Jansen wanted the baseball, and so, in the eighth inning of a 3-2 victory over Miami, he started to warm up. There was a runner at first base and two outs. Roberts elected to remove reliever Brandon Morrow and give Jansen a chance for his ninth multi-inning save of the season. Jansen jogged to the mound, only to realize the lingering effect of his illness.
"Your body is still recovering," Jansen said. "You think you feel good. But when you go out there and you're warming up, you don't have it."
The outing was not pretty. Jansen yielded a pair of singles and allowed the Marlins to cut the Dodgers' lead to one. He recovered to strike out first baseman Justin Bour to strand two runners. Angry with himself, Jansen returned for a spotless ninth, to close out a ninth victory in a row for the Dodgers (64-29). This is what passes for an unsatisfactory appearance for this team, which now holds a 10 1/2-game lead in the National League West.
As a reward, Jansen and the rest of his teammates will receive a day off Monday in Chicago. They return to action Tuesday for an interleague series against the last-place White Sox. Clayton Kershaw will make his second-half debut in the series opener.
On Sunday, Rich Hill (6-4, 3.55 ERA) spun his fifth encouraging start in a row. He struck out nine during five innings of one-run baseball. Justin Turner supplied a first-inning homer and drove in two runs. The train kept rolling, with the team now on pace for 111 wins.
"We're playing the right way," Roberts said.
The day lacked drama. No Dodger bashed a go-ahead homer late, like Yasiel Puig did on Friday. No Dodger hit for the cycle, as Cody Bellinger did on Saturday. Hill even allowed a Marlin to reach base. He gave up a second-inning double, which meant he would not stage a reprise of his outing here last September, when Roberts removed him after seven perfect innings, out of concern over the blisters on Hill's left hand.
Hill leaned on dry humor when asked about his affinity for this ballpark.
"Yeah, I like the mound," Hill said. "It's a really good mound."
When Hill started the day, his club already led. Turner homered in the game's third at-bat. He was facing a rookie named Chris O'Grady. Turner crushed a thigh-high cutter for his 11th homer of the season. "I know that he likes to throw that cutter in," Turner said. "I got ahead in the count, and was just looking middle-in. And he left it there."
Two innings later, after a walk by Logan Forsythe and a single by Corey Seager, Turner provided a sacrifice fly. The Dodgers added a third run in the fourth after a triple by Chris Taylor and an RBI single by Austin Barnes.
Hill ran into difficulty in the fifth. An old friend started it. A.J. Ellis, the beloved former Dodgers catcher, pounded an 88-mph fastball from Hill into the left-field corner. It was Miami's third double of the game. Hill had snuffed out rallies on the previous two. He was less fortunate this time.
Marlins shortstop J.T. Riddle singled on an elevated curveball. In to pinch-hit, Ichiro Suzuki topped a 2-2 curve back to the mound. The grounder caught Hill in an awkward position, off balance and leaning forward. He reached for the ball with his bare hand, but could not grab it. As Hill tumbled to the ground, Suzuki reached on a single and Ellis scored.
The hit rolled over the Marlins lineup to the top of the order. Hill limited the damage. He struck out third baseman Martin Prado on three pitches. He induced a grounder from slugger Giancarlo Stanton to finish the frame.
Hill would have preferred to last longer, but he had reached 94 pitches. Roberts did not want to extend him much further. In his last five appearances, in which he has modified his delivery to streamline excessive movement, Hill has posted a 1.74 ERA.
"We're going on a month where it's been a pretty good stretch," Hill said. "Once you do find that release point, it makes it much more competitive. So you can make those competitive pitches that you want to make, and attack the zone."
The bullpen handled the rest of the afternoon. In the eighth, Morrow gave up a leadoff single to former Dodger Dee Gordon when Seager bobbled a grounder. Morrow retired the next two batters, including a three-pitch strikeout of Stanton. With Jansen warming up, though, Roberts did not want him to sit down and restart loosening up for the ninth.
The door opened for Jansen. On the mound, he could tell he was not right. He balked while facing outfielder Christian Yelich. He could not react in time to snag a groundball, which deflected off his glove for a single. After another hit, Jansen steadied himself to get Bour. The ninth was less dicey, and Jansen could exhale.
"I'm not 100%, but that's no excuse," Jansen said. "Not every day is going to be your day."
A parting reminder: The Dodgers won.
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes