Roberts went for early knockout with Jansen
By Cary Osborne
With all the second-guessing and debates already in this postseason about back-end bullpen usage (re: Zach Britton, Jeurys Familia and Andrew Miller), Dave Roberts didn’t shy away from risk.
In the eighth inning, the Dodger manager moved aggressively, asking Kenley Jansen to get five outs and protect the Dodgers’ 4-3 lead — only the third time in his career Jansen had been asked to get five outs and the first time in his 11 postseason appearances. And it worked.
Jansen got his first out in the eighth on the first pitch he threw to pinch-hitter Stephen Drew, but followed that by allowing a double to pinch-hitter Clint Robinson. On a 3-2 pitch to the third pinch-hitter of the inning, Chris Heisey, Jansen threw a low-moving cutter that struck him out looking. In the ninth, Jansen retired Trea Turner (strikeout swinging), Bryce Harper (lineout to second) and Jayson Werth (strikeout swinging) to earn the save.
Pedro Baez retired Ryan Zimmerman to begin the eighth, but the Dodgers weren’t going to worry about tomorrow’s game today with a lead in hand — especially with Jansen having not pitched since October 1.
“Right now I’m prepared for six (outs),” Jansen said after the win, adding that he and Roberts have been talking about it since the Dodgers’ first postseason workout. “All the organization is playing for one thing. We try to do everything we have to right now and take advantage of the opportunity. If I have to go six outs, then we got to go. If I have to do it every day, we got to go.”
Because what if that opportunity isn’t there in Game 2? That’s why Roberts went for it — even if Jansen ended up not protecting the lead, leading to sure firestorm of “why did he pitch in the eighth?”
The opportunity was there due in large part to the Dodger bullpen that picked up Clayton Kershaw, who battled through five strenuous innings, having allowed eight hits, a walk and three runs in five innings. The bullpen phone has often rung early for the Dodgers this year, but rarely when Kershaw was on the mound.
Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Pedro Baez pitched a combined 2 1/3 scoreless innings to bridge the gap to Jansen, who entered a game protecting a lead in the eighth inning seven times this year and saved five of them, including the only five-out save of his career on April 13 vs. Arizona. Until Friday.
“Tonight obviously wasn’t the start we envisioned for Clayton, but for Joe to come in, and Grant, and Petey, and obviously Kenley, who numerous times has had one-plus inning — that five-out save right there was big,” Roberts said. “And the thing I feel really good about is it’s what we’ve done all year long, so those guys have been in some tough situations and have answered the bell every time.”