The Dodgers appeared to be afflicted by the tyranny of the save.
They sent closer Kenley Jansen back to the mound in the ninth inning Saturday night, with a nine-run lead, so he could complete the save.
He did not pitch well. He did not complete the save. He threw so many pitches he said he would not be able to pitch Sunday.
And he was not the only Dodgers pitcher to exit the game in less than glorious fashion. Just as Jansen could not finish the ninth, Clayton Kershaw could not finish the eighth, leaving after a rather athletic show of displeasure with the plate umpire.
None of this affected the bottom line. The Dodgers routed the San Diego Padres 10-2, with Cody Bellinger’s nightly heroics including his first career grand slam and first career stolen base. In his first 11 games, Bellinger has hit five home runs, driven in 14 runs and posted a .357 batting average.
Kershaw became the National League’s first five-game winner, giving up one run in 71/3 innings. His victory did not come easy. By the time he was done, he had made 118 pitches, more than he has in any start in two years. He had walked four — all unintentionally, for the first time in four years.
On the other hand, he had avoided injury, nicely sticking the landing of a pirouette he executed to demonstrate his displeasure with plate umpire Toby Basner.
“When you start to smell the finish line, I think the intensity ramps up a little bit,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
The first seven innings were shutout ones. In the eighth, pinch-hitter Ryan Schimpf homered, after Kershaw objected to Basner’s calls on previous pitches.
After a walk and a strikeout, Kershaw bounced ball four when he walked Wil Myers — but not before jumping off the mound and twirling his body all the way around, expressing his disbelief that Basner had called ball three on what appeared to be strike three.
“You know what? It doesn’t matter,” Kershaw said. “It was a ball. It probably was a ball. Too much emotion.”
Pedro Baez got one out, and then Jansen struck out Hunter Renfroe with the bases loaded. In order to get credit for the save, Jansen had to complete the ninth inning.
He got the first two outs, but he could not get the third. He made 33 pitches, and Chris Hatcher had to relieve him to get the final out.
“You just don’t have any adrenaline,” Jansen said. “You come in with the bases loaded, tying run at home plate. To come back out with a nine-run lead . . .”
In between, the Dodgers scored five runs in the top of the ninth, extending the inning so long that Jansen had to bat. Then, on a chilly evening, he had to go back and pitch.
“It was a challenging moment,” he said. “I’m sitting down there for half an hour. It was cold out there. You go out there, and your energy level is a little lower, because there is no intensity out there. Mentally, I battled.”
Jansen needed to finish the game to get the save, but Roberts said that was not the priority. Instead, he said, the game changed so quickly — Bellinger hit his slam with two out in the top of the ninth — that the Dodgers did not have time to get another reliever ready.
“I can’t predict the grand slam in the ninth inning, and the five runs,” Roberts said, adding: “If it was a nine-run game, he wouldn’t be in the game if didn’t happen the way it did.”
Roberts said Jansen had been lightly used in recent days, and was ready for the four-out save. In addition, Roberts said, the likelihood of rain here Sunday made it unlikely that Jansen — or anyone else — would have to pitch the following day.
After the game, Roberts met behind closed doors with general manager Farhan Zaidi. Jansen put his ear to the door, greeted both men when the door opened, then smiled playfully at reporters.
“I’m not getting sent down,” Jansen said.
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