Before the ninth inning Monday afternoon, when he failed to keep the Dodgers within one run of the Washington Nationals in a nonsave situation, Kenley Jansen had given up four runs or more in a game only three times in his big league career.
Each time, he’d taken several days off before pitching again.
The last time was August 27, 2012, at Coors Field, when, the next morning, he was hospitalized because of an irregular heartbeat and sat out more than three weeks.
This time, he had only 24 hours to recover before Manager Dave Roberts called him in for the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-5 victory over Washington in Game 4 in their National League division series.
Jansen was tasked with preserving a one-run lead for three outs that would force a decisive Game 5, and he rewarded Roberts’ confidence.
Jansen struck out Stephen Drew and Trea Turner to start the inning and got slugger Bryce Harper to weakly ground out. A total of 13 pitches.
“It was one of those things where you can’t be perfect every day,” Roberts said. “But his resiliency to come back after [Monday] and to have that short memory that the great closers have to have, no surprise. He rose to the moment.”
Jansen’s effectiveness in the Game 3 situation continued a trend. In save situations during the regular season, Jansen yielded a .428 opponents’ on-base-plus-slugging percentage compared to a .496 OPS otherwise. In 2015, the gap was bigger: Hitters had a .459 OPS in save situations and a .661 OPS in nonsave situations.
Nationals Manager Dusty Baker said he was surprised to see Jansen struggle in Game 3 regardless of the situation.
“No matter what inning it is, I’ve never seen Jansen get hit like that,” Baker said. “And I’m sure he hasn’t seen himself get hit like that.”
If the Dodgers lose Game 5, Jansen’s 12-year career in the Dodgers organization could be over. He will become a free agent after the World Series.
Baker said after Tuesday’s game that Howie Kendrick’s availability off the Dodgers bench influenced how he handled the decisive eighth inning.
He had left-hander Sammy Solis warming up for the third straight day, knowing he’d only pitch him in an emergency. The inning quickly became an emergency, and Baker almost opted for Solis. Ultimately, he decided against it because of Kendrick.
“I didn’t want to bring a tired Solis out there to face, you know, Howie Kendrick, because we were trying to stay away from Howie Kendrick, because he’s been hitting lights-out,” Baker said. “I mean, he’s been hitting the ball hard.”
While starting only once, Kendrick has a double and a single in eight plate appearances this series. He has one strikeout. Four of his five outs in play have traveled 98 mph or faster off his bat.
Because the Nationals will start ace right-hander Max Scherzer, Kendrick figures to begin Thursday’s Game 5 on the bench.
But even if he’s out of sight, he won’t be out of mind.
Only two Dodgers have hit more postseason home runs than Adrian Gonzalez during the franchise’s history. He has homered six times in the playoffs, including at least one in the five series the Dodgers have played since his 2012 arrival via a trade with the Boston Red Sox.
The players with more than five playoff homers as Dodgers: Duke Snider with 11 and Steve Garvey with 10.