Dodgers’ uncertainty of Kenley Jansen’s ability to close goes all the way to the top
Kenley Jansen sat in the bullpen as Game 1 came undone.
The longtime Dodgers closer, as expected, was not given the ninth inning with the score tied in Monday night’s National League Championship Series opener. Amid his recent struggles, the Dodgers felt better playing to specific matchups late in the game.
“We just have a really deep bullpen and guys that match up against different guys,” Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, said earlier. “They complement one another.”
Except during Monday’s ninth inning. Instead, Jansen’s alternatives flopped in the team’s 5-1 loss, with Blake Treinen and Jake McGee combining to give up four runs and two homers to send the Dodgers to their first postseason loss.
Freddie Freeman attended Orange El Modena High after his mother died of melanoma. His father, Fredrick, and coach Steve Bernard helped him cope and develop.
“I felt that run [of Braves batters] right there was really good for Blake,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s going to have to do it again. It just didn’t work out, but I trust that he’s gonna get those guys out.”
Jansen’s absence was the backdrop to it all. It wasn’t a save situation, but the right-hander in past postseasons was called on to pitch the ninth inning of tied games.
Jansen isn’t necessarily out of the picture but is working through mechanical issues that plagued him in a shaky two-run, three-hit, 30-pitch appearance in Game 2 of the division series.
“There’s some stuff in the delivery that I know Mark [Prior] and Connor [McGuiness] are kind of keying on,” Friedman said of his pitching coaches. “But to his credit, all he is saying right now is, ‘I want to be a part of helping us win a championship.’”
On Monday, though, he didn’t get the chance.
Like they did in the division series, the Dodgers and Braves, in an effort to shrink the size of their playoff bubble, are staying at the same hotel in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“We’re hanging out,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s activities for both clubs separately, whether it’s ping-pong, skeeball or air hockey. There’s a basketball hoop outside. Guys are spending a lot of time with their families, so that’s been good too.”
Boredom is a constant foe.
Atlanta Braves catcher and cleanup hitter Travis d’Arnaud had a career year at the plate in 2020. The five days he spent with the Dodgers in May 2019 played a role.
“You’re stuck at the hotel — you got to find ways to pass time,” Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy said. “Me and my wife, we look at a lot of videos of our dogs, of our cat. They aren’t allowed to be with us, which is unfortunate.”
If the Dodgers beat the Braves and play a seven-game World Series, they’ll spend 27 days in Texas, which seems like a lot until you compare it to the Lakers’ stay in Florida, which ended with an NBA championship Sunday.
“Man, they spent 93 days in that bubble, so I’m glad they won,” Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw said.
The Dodgers added left-hander Alex Wood and corner infielder Edwin Ríos to their NLCS roster and removed second baseman Gavin Lux and pinch-running specialist Terrance Gore.
Wood, 29, gives the Dodgers a 15th pitcher on the 28-man roster and adds length to a bullpen that could be taxed if the teams play seven games in seven days. Though he had a 6.39 earned-run average in nine games this season, Wood has a 1-2 record and 4.10 ERA in 16 career playoff games since 2013.
“For Alex, it’s the track record, the history of being in the postseason and pitching on a big stage, and the pitch mix and how he matches up against these guys,” Roberts said.
The left-handed-hitting Ríos missed the division series against San Diego because of a groin injury.
Game 2 on Tuesday will be extra special for Braves starter Ian Anderson, a 22-year-old right-hander whose parents and twin brother, Ben, a 2019 pick of the Texas Rangers, will watch him pitch in person in a big-league game for the first time.
Anderson made his debut Aug. 26, allowing one hit and one run in six innings against the New York Yankees in an empty Truist Park. Anderson went 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 41 strikeouts in six regular-season starts and has yet to give up a run in 11-2/3 playoff innings.
Anderson is excited about getting a chance to pitch in a quarter-full Globe Life Field.
“I’ll get a little taste of it [Monday] night and [Tuesday],” he said, “but I’m sure when the time comes next year, it’ll be just as special.”
Roberts said he was “a little bit surprised” that Games 2 and 3 were moved up to 3 p.m. PDT in Texas, start times that could bring “shadows into play” for the first few innings. The Dodgers’ first five playoff games started at 7 or later.
“We’re going to look at that actually during batting practice,” Roberts said. “I think we’re just kind of used to playing at night, like later, but it really doesn’t matter.”
Staff writer Maria Torres contributed to this report.
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