Hello national spotlight, I am Kenley Jansen
By Cary Osborne
In late 2014, I reached out to a couple of heavy-hitting baseball writers to get their thoughts on Kenley Jansen for a Dodger Insider magazine story. The premise of the story was that Kenley Jansen is the best closer in baseball who nobody — outside of Los Angeles — was talking about.
Tom Verducci said this at the time: “To me, he’s not going to get the national attention he deserves for how good he is until he starts closing out games in at least the National League Championship Series and maybe even the World Series. He definitely needs that postseason national stage to get to that next level.”
Coupling what he did Sunday night with a two-inning save in the Dodgers’ 1-0 win in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series — in which he got six outs on 18 pitches — with his Game 5 performance in Washington, Jansen has reached crossover status.
Jansen struck out the first and third batters he saw in the eighth inning on three pitches — both Wilson Contreras and Miguel Montero swinging. Sandwiched between was a Jason Heyward fly out to right field. Jansen started the ninth by striking out Dexter Fowler swinging and getting Kris Bryant on a called third strike. It took one pitch for him to retire Anthony Rizzo on a soft liner to end the game. Of Jansen’s 18 pitches, two were balls.
“You can’t say enough about Kenley,” said Clayton Kershaw, who pitched a masterful seven innings leading to Jansen. “Since he’s been in the big leagues, since he became a closer, it’s one thing to have dominant stuff, which he does, but the willingness and want-to that he has, the competitiveness that you’re seeing right now – that I’ve really seen throughout — he really wants that ball. A lot of people say that, but to do it night in and night out — two-inning saves and coming in in the seventh in Game 5, all that stuff — that’s what makes him special, even more so than the really nasty cutter that he throws.”
This was Jansen’s first two-inning save in his postseason career, which comes on the heels of his 2 1/3 scoreless innings last Thursday in Washington. He is now 8 for 8 in save situations in his postseason career.
Heck, it’s the first two-inning save of any kind in his career. Jansen has 11 regular season outings of at least two innings in his career. He had zero in the 2016 regular season. As critical as he has been for the Dodgers in the 2016 postseason, Jansen will probably be more than the Dodgers’ closer. He will be his own set-up man. That’s elite.