Hyperbole tells you each playoff game is pressure-packed, with each game made up of intense moments. Such was the case in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday night between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.
With the Dodgers trailing 1-0, Clayton Kershaw walked three batters in the seventh inning, with his last free pass and 113th pitch of the night loading the bases. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly came out to get his ace, replacing him with Pedro Baez.
Baez promptly allowed a two-run single to David Wright, and the Dodgers went on to lose, 3-1. Mattingly explained the decision to use Baez as favoring the right-hander’s power arm against Wright.
Given how much hinged on the matchup and the factors involved, it was the most high-leverage moment of the game. Advanced stats, which the Dodgers front office under president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman are said to be a proponent of, dictates using your best reliever in such situation.
For the Dodgers that’s none other than closer Kenley Jansen. While the club has previously used Jansen to record four-out saves, calling on him in the seventh inning proved too driven by sabermetrics. “We haven’t talked about using Kenley in the seventh,” Mattingly said on Saturday.
“We do talk about using guys in high-leverage situations, though.” For various reasons the Dodgers haven’t gone to Jansen with any frequency over their last two playoff runs. He has a combined seven postseason appearances (5.1 innings pitched) — three in the 2013 NLDS, one in the 2013 NL Championship Series, and one in the 2014 NLDS.
Jansen’s converted three saves, collected 12 strikeouts and holds a 3.38 ERA in that span. Going to his closer in the seventh inning of Game 1, presumably would’ve required Mattingly to do a double switch, considering the pitcher’s spot was due up third in the bottom half of the inning.
Andre Ethier was the last out in the sixth, so replacing him with Yasiel Puig isn’t unfathomable, nor out of Mattingly’s comfort zone. Going to Jansen in the seventh however, appears to be. “I think we’ve talked about using him in the eighth and things like that. But we haven’t gotten into using him in the seventh,” Mattingly said.