Kenley Jansen carries extra load in Dodgers’ 3-1 defeat of Diamondbacks
It would have come off as an act of desperation had Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts not expressed three hours before the game his willingness to do exactly what he did in the eighth inning Wednesday night.
With two on, one out and the Dodgers clinging to a two-run lead over Arizona, Roberts summoned Kenley Jansen for what he hoped would be the first five-out save of the closer’s career — in the ninth game of the season.
It’s an indication of just how bad the Dodgers bullpen has been that few would question the move, especially after Jansen doused that eighth-inning fire and pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve a 3-1 victory in Dodger Stadium.
Alex Wood, who was superb over seven one-run, five-hit innings to earn the win, had his string of 11 straight batters retired snapped when pinch-hitter Phil Gosselin reached on an infield single to open the eighth. Pedro Baez got Nick Ahmed to line out to center but walked Jean Segura.
Jansen retired the side in order in the ninth to end a wild and somewhat chippy game that included four replay reviews, three hit-batsmen, all of them Dodgers, three errors, all by the Diamondbacks, two home runs and one surprise winning pitcher.
Wood did not appear to be long for the game, not after the left-hander needed 54 pitches to navigate the first three innings and gave up a home run to Ahmed in the third. But he found his bearings and turned into a model of efficiency, needing 47 pitches to complete the next four innings.
The Dodgers tied the score, 1-1, in the fourth when Adrian Gonzalez hit a full-count 97-mph fastball from Rubby De La Rosa into the right-center field seats for his first home run.
Howie Kendrick and Joc Pederson singled to open the fifth, Kendrick taking third on Pederson’s hit. Wood struck out attempting to bunt. Chase Utley grounded to the shortstop hole, but Ahmed’s off-balance throw to second was wide and hit Pederson for an error. Kendrick scored for a 2-1 lead.
With two on, Corey Seager hit what should have been an inning-ending double-play grounder to second. But Goldschmidt squeezed his first baseman’s mitt too soon while attempting to catch Ahmed’s relay throw, and the ball squirted out of his mitt, allowing Pederson to score for a 3-1 lead.
The bullpen was torched for 16 earned runs in 14 innings of the previous five games, suffering three losses and three blown saves, including Tuesday’s meltdown in which Baez, Chris Hatcher and Louis Coleman gave up four runs in the final three innings of a 4-2 loss.
Jansen, who has 145 career saves, said he would be open to four-out, five-out or even six-out saves. But he had never recorded a save of more than four outs until Wednesday.
“Doc knows I’m willing to do that,” Jansen said of Roberts. “I make sure I stay sharp, in shape and get plenty of rest, so whenever he needs me for two innings or a four-out save, I’ll be ready.”
Roberts isn’t so sure about six-out saves, but he can envision using Jansen in what he called “unorthodox situations,” like the ninth inning Tuesday, when Coleman turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-1 deficit, rendering the Dodgers’ run in the bottom of the ninth moot.
“We can use Kenley when we’re down a run to keep that deficit right there,” Roberts said, “or in a tie game when you might not conventionally use a closer.”
The problem with using Jansen in nonsave situations is that the Dodgers could play a string of three or four games in which they need a closer.
“You can’t predict the future,” Jansen said. “Sometimes if I’m fresh, I can pick up my teammates … but you can’t panic and use me as a savior all the time. I need these guys all year to set the bridge up. They’re more important than me closing that ninth, because they need to build that bridge from the sixth to the ninth.”
Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna
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