ARLINGTON, Texas – After Kenley Jansen pulled back the final blow with a 150 mph fastball Friday night and crossed the side out, he stared at the Los Angeles Dodgers’ dugout with an intensity the personable right-handed man rarely sees. The meaning behind it, said Jansen, was basically: “Let’s go!”
It was different for the rest of the Dodgers: Kenley Jansen – good Kenley Jansen – is back.
Jansen recorded the last three outs of Saturday’s 3-1 win against the Atlanta Braves in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. This time the lead was only two runs, half the cushion of his Friday outing, which is his first save since the Dodgers̵
“If we want to get where we want to be and keep this trophy at the end of the year, we’re going to need him,” said Dodger’s third baseman Justin Turner. “He’s going to be a big part of it. Two big outings, not just for us but for him personally. And you can see how much trust he has in the hill and attacking guys. That’s the Kenley Jansen I and all of us know and love in there. “
Jansen hasn’t been bad this season – he finished the race with a 3.33 ERA, 33 spikes, and nine walks in 24 1/3 innings – but again, he wasn’t consistently dominant. His cutter’s speed began to drop below 90 mph towards the end of the regular season, and he started the playoffs on unstable foundations.
After failing to secure a three-fold lead over the San Diego Padres in Game 3 of the division series, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts temporarily removed him from high leverage situations. His next appearance was by a margin of 14 runs in the sixth inning of Game 3 of the NLCS. But Roberts noticed smoother, more repeatable delivery on this outing. After hitting the side in the ninth inning of Game 4 to easily maintain a four-run lead, Dodger’s shortstop Corey Seager saw someone straighten up with confidence.
On Saturday, Jansen tossed his cutter 90 to 91 mph and mixed it with a two-seater approaching the mid-90s.
“The game honors him,” said Roberts of Jansen. “I couldn’t be happier or prouder of him.”
Jansen has been trying to keep his top and bottom halves in sync for the past few weeks, a constant problem for someone with a 6-foot-5,265-pound frame. A few days ago, Jansen was able to rediscover the clean and easy delivery of his early years through conversations with longtime pitchers Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt, both still associated with the organization. Persistence, he believes, is beginning to come.
“There are no roles in the playoffs,” said Jansen when asked if he should be temporarily removed when the team gets closer. “It’s, ‘When can you be in the best position to help your team win?’ I’ve been here for a long time and having a ring here with the organization is the last thing I have to achieve here. We want it. We want it for everyone and the fans deserve it and that’s what it’s about to win a championship here. “