Dodgers' Kenley Jansen has emerged as one of baseball's best closers

Dodgers' Kenley Jansen has emerged as one of baseball's best closers
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis congratulates closer Kenley Jansen, who pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning against the Diamondbacks on Friday night to earn his 40th save of the season. (Harry How / Getty Images)

Kenley Jansen did make one mistake Friday night. After he closed the Dodgers' 2-1 victory over the Diamondbacks, he took the game ball … and tossed it to a kid in the stands.

Jansen had just saved his 40th game of the season


"I should have kept that ball, but that kid will enjoy it," Jansen said.

Jansen became just the fourth Dodger in team history reach the 40-save milestone, joining Eric Gagne (2002, 2003, 2004), Todd Worrell (1996) and Jeff Shaw (2001).

Perhaps just as important, his milestone came in the next game after he had a rare blown save opportunity Wednesday, giving up a two-run homer to Adam LaRoach in the ninth.

"That's the one thing we've seen with Kenley, he doesn't seem to be bothered by [stumbles] like the other day," said Manager Don Mattingly. "He seems to be able to bounce right back and get the next one. Which is the quality you want out of that guy at the end of the day."

This is Jansen's first full season as the Dodgers' closer, but he already ranks with the best in baseball. He is third in the National League in saves and has been successful in 40 of 45 opportunities.

Since June 21, opponents are batting just .190 against him. Friday he retired the Diamondbacks in order.

"Just another day at the office for Kenley," said catcher A.J. Ellis.

Jansen takes particular pride in his consistency and ability to put his off-games behind him.

"If you want to do this job a long time, you can't worry about situations like Wednesday," he said. "We have to realize we're human, we're not a machine out there. At the same time, you want to win that game. I mean, it hurt, but you have to be able to move on from it."

Some had expressed concern the converted catcher would not be able to sustain his velocity and natural movement on his fastball. He struck out a stunning 16.1 batters per nine innings in 2001 but that number dropped to 13.0 last season. Now it's up to 14.4.

"So many hitters come up [to the plate] and talk about how hard he is to square up and how deceptive he is, even though they know what's coming," Ellis said. "When you're able to do that against major-league hitters, it's pretty impressive."