Kenley Jansen seemingly fell out of favor as Los Angeles Dodgers closer after struggling against the San Diego Padres in the National League Division Series, but he has been on the mound in the ninth inning in the past two games, both of which were must-wins.
On Friday, Jansen struck out the side to wrap up a 7-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. He was summoned out of the bullpen again on Saturday and converted a save opportunity in a 3-1 win to help the Dodgers force the Braves to a Game 7 in the NL Championship Series.
“If we want to get to where we want to be in holding that trophy at the end of the year, we’re going to need him,” Justin Turner said. “He’s going to be a big part of it. Just two huge outings.
“Not only for us, but for him personally. You can just see the confidence he has on the mound attacking guys. That’s the Kenley Jansen all of us in there know and love.”
Prior to the Dodgers’ Game 6 win, Jansen revealed he’d recently been in communication with former pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and Charlie Hough. “Went back to the basics,” Jansen said of their work together in hopes of solving his struggles.
Jansen also reiterated not being concerned with his role or which inning(s) he pitches. Much of that stems from a willingness to contribute and self belief to succeed in any situation.
“I never lose confidence. I don’t know why it was like I lost confidence. I never lose confidence in myself. I will never lose confidence,” Jansen said.
“The minute I lose confidence in myself, I will stop playing this game. The confidence is going to be there. If it’s 88 (mph), if it’s 91, if it’s 93, just go out there and get outs. This is a game of get outs. It’s not a game of throwing hard and all that. It’s get outs.
“I never lost that confidence in me. It’s just go out and compete, keep working on the delivery to let it sync in. Once all those sync in, it’s going to be even better. Everything clicked and it shows. Just got to keep grinding.”
Roberts defends Jansen’s season
Even with his recent hesitation to commit to Jansen as closer, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has regularly voiced confidence in the 33-year-old. Following Jansen’s save in Game 6, Roberts argued the season — while inconsistent on the surface — has been positive in other areas.
“This has been a tough, challenging year from different perspectives but in some perspective it’s been his best season,” Roberts began. “To continue to stay focused and be ready when called upon, the game is honoring him. Couldn’t be more happy and proud of him. …
“There’s been some under-the-surface numbers that he’s been really good, to be quite honest. Whether it be quality of contact, strikeouts. There’s been some things in there that have been really good and just haven’t shown itself.”
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