Kenley Jansen retires Freddie Freeman for save in return to Dodger Stadium

Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen watches as the Dodgers' Freddie Freeman flies out to end the game.
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Kenley Jansen, left, watches as Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman pops out to end the game on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Some fans cheered. Others booed. Almost everyone in attendance, however, were out of their seats, standing to get a glimpse of a sight Dodger Stadium had never seen.

Kenley Jansen made his return to the mound in Chavez Ravine on Tuesday night, entering from the visitors’ right-field bullpen and toeing the rubber in another team’s uniform for the first time in his career.

“California Love” wasn’t blaring from the speakers. A fanbase that had cheered (and sometimes booed) him the last 12 years offered only a mixed ovation.

But Jansen earned the save against his former Dodgers team anyway, completing the Atlanta Braves’ 3-1 win in fitting fashion — inducing a fly ball from former Braves star Freddie Freeman to end the game.

“I ain’t gonna lie,” Jansen said in an on-field interview, “it was a lot of emotions.”


After 12 seasons with the Dodgers, Jansen signed with the Braves as a free agent in the offseason, joining the defending World Series champions on a one-year, $16-million contract.

Before Monday’s series opener, Jansen talked to reporters about the difficulty of the transition and the emotions that came with his exodus from Los Angeles. He greeted old teammates in the clubhouse that afternoon. Then, on the field, he was warmly received during a pregame ceremony alongside Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, third baseman Justin Turner and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

“Just to see the reception he got from the fans, it really was great,” Roberts said. “You could see him getting a little bit emotional.”

Clayton Kershaw had difficulty appreciating a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium after the Atlanta Braves knocked him out in the sixth inning of a win.

Roberts had hoped it would be the last the Dodgers saw of Jansen this week, and the closer didn’t stir in Monday’s 7-4 loss to L.A.

But with the Braves (6-7) leading by two going into the bottom of the ninth Tuesday, Jansen came trotting to the mound.

“Just tried to control [the emotions],” Jansen said. “I’ve been doing this for a while at Dodger Stadium.”

After getting Will Smith to fly out and Mookie Betts to swing through a trademark cutter for a strikeout, Jansen faced Freeman with two outs.

“It was weird as hell,” Jansen said of the matchup with Freeman, who spent 12 seasons with the Braves before signing with the Dodgers this spring and homering Monday in his first at-bat against his old team.

“I faced that guy so many times in a Braves uniform and now it’s vice versa. So, yeah, that’s crazy.”

Freeman, 0 for 4 Tuesday, got a hold of a sinker down the middle but watched the ball die in left-center field for the final out. He walked back to the Dodgers dugout. Jansen celebrated on the mound with his new team.

“I’m always grateful for what they did for me,” Jansen said. “Now I’m on the other side with a great organization, the Atlanta Braves, so it’s fun being here too and just try to repeat a championship.”

The Dodgers (8-3) had been frustrated long before their former closer ended the game.

Facing Braves ace Max Fried, the Dodgers’ star-studded lineup was kept silent for most of the night, managing just two hits against the former Studio City Harvard-Westlake standout.

Fried retired the first 15 Dodgers, carrying a perfect game into the sixth inning before Hanser Alberto lined a single to right. After that inning ended with a double-play, Fried didn’t face more than the minimum until the seventh, when he stranded an infield single by Trea Turner with three strikeouts — giving him eight on the night.

The Dodgers, who entered the game winners of seven straight, also had their ace pitching.

But in a five-inning, three-run start, Walker Buehler still struggled to capture his normal, dominant form to start the season.

“Just not a very good outing,” Buehler said, “against a pretty good team.”

Atlanta Braves' Eddie Rosario scores on a double by Orlando Arcia as Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes takes a late throw.
Atlanta Braves’ Eddie Rosario, right, scores on a double by Orlando Arcia as Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes takes a late throw during the fourth inning on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Travis d’Arnaud took Buehler deep for a solo home run in the second inning, hammering a first-pitch fastball in the left-field bullpen. Orlando Arcia added to the lead in the fourth with an RBI double. In the fifth, Austin Riley drove in another run after hitting a single seemingly by accident on a check swing.

In all, Buehler gave up eight hits (his most in an outing since September 2019), struck out just two batters (his fewest in a Dodger Stadium start since March 2019) and finished the game with a 4.02 earned-run average through three starts (higher than he had at any point last year).

“He competed, gave us a chance to win,” Roberts said.

But the manager added: “I didn’t think his stuff was sharp today.”

The Dodgers managed one run against Braves reliever Tyler Matzek in the eighth, after Chris Taylor drew a walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on an Alberto ground ball.

But then in the ninth, they faced what so many of their opponents had for a dozen years, becoming the victims of Jansen’s 186th career save at Dodger Stadium — and first to be completed in the bottom of the ninth.

In 1972, 25 years after he broke MLB’s color barrier, Robinson reflected on the ongoing fight for equality. Former Times sportswriter Ron Rapoport recounts that interview just months before Robinson’s death.

Injury updates

Gavin Lux was scratched from the lineup after experiencing back tightness before the game. The Dodgers didn’t immediately indicate the severity of Lux’s injury.

Reliever Blake Treinen also was unavailable, as he continues to nurse an arm injury. Treinen will throw off a mound Wednesday, in hopes of returning to game action as soon as Friday.