No eminent Dodgers player has had a more tumultuous 2019 than Kenley Jansen. Despite some great moments, he’s gotten more flack for the lows, reaching a new career high in blown saves. But in San Diego this past week, he enjoyed a well-earned feat when he notched his 300th career save.
Tonight was a definitively better outing for Kenley Jansen than the one 10 days ago vs. the Mets that got so much attention. He executed his pitches almost perfectly, and even those out of the strike zone had purpose. P.S.: Congrats on career save No. 300, Kenley. https://t.co/5aDG95lGih
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) September 26, 2019
Even in a year of struggle, hitting a milestone like 300 saves is still worthy of celebration. First, it puts him in truly elite company. It also really illustrates the breadth of what Jansen has accomplished in almost a decade wearing Dodger Blue. Thus, it’s an appropriate time to dig up some of his biggest moments en route to 300.
Before you say it…yes, I know I just wrote an article casting doubt on his capabilities this postseason. I stand by it, and feel it’s reasonable to have that viewpoint while celebrating his past triumphs. His recent struggles don’t erase the value of these (and other) big moments listed below.
First Career Save vs. Mets (July 25, 2010)
Much like Clayton Kershaw, Jansen defines this era of Dodger baseball so much it’s hard to conceive of a time when he wasn’t around. But we all have to start somewhere, and the towering Curacaoan started as a catcher in the minors before converting to pitching.
In only his second MLB game in July 2010, his first save was a sign of things to come. After eight shutout innings from Kershaw, Jansen secured a 1-0 win with a 1-2-3 inning, two outs coming by strikeout. It’s a sight Dodger fans would get used to fast.
First Career Win vs. Astros (September 11, 2010)
Minute Maid Park may not be a place you associate with happy memories for Jansen. Which makes it even trippier to remember that it’s where he got his first career win in 2010, pitching a scoreless eighth. Hung-Chih Kuo picked up the save.
First Postseason Save vs. Braves (October 7, 2013)
Game four of the 2013 NLDS looked like it would be a lost cause, with the Braves leading 3-2 in the eighth and Craig Kimbrel looming. But then Juan Uribe turned that bunt into a home run swing, and suddenly the Dodgers were up 4-3.
Thus, instead of Kimbrel, it was Jansen’s opportunity to seal the deal. He didn’t waste a moment, striking out Jordan Schafer, Jason Heyward and Justin Upton to send the Dodgers to the NLCS for the first time in four years.
First All-Star Game (July 12, 2016)
When the book closes on Kenley’s career, 2016 will undoubtedly be remembered as his signature year. He racked up a career-high 47 saves, kept his ERA to 1.83, and thus earned his first All-Star selection. While the American League prevailed at the midsummer contest in San Diego, Jansen made the most of it with an inning-ending strikeout of Baltimore’s Matt Wieters.
Teaming Up With Kershaw to Win 2016 NLDS (October 13, 2016)
Jansen’s postseason reputation has taken a beating after the past two World Series. But it should be remembered he was outstanding in it before then, and this was his signature moment. In a postseason defined by bullpen use, Dave Roberts was especially unorthodox in game five of the NLDS in Washington.
Having started the game with a brief start from Rich Hill, Joe Blanton and Julio Urias held the fort down as the Dodgers took a 4-1 lead. But when Grant Dayton was tagged for a two-run homer in the seventh, it was suddenly 4-3. Roberts had seen enough, and it was time for a bold move.
In came Jansen, who proceeded to load the bases with two outs. He struck out Anthony Rendon to escape the jam. He had a much smoother eighth and went into the ninth, when he gave way to Clayton Kershaw’s first postseason save. It was a gutsy hold, one still worthy of appreciation, and the Dodgers were off to the NLCS.
Securing the 2017 NLCS
Continuing his 2016 postseason strength, Jansen was a workhorse in an even bigger series in 2017, closing out all four wins of the NLCS against Chicago. This means he was the winning pitcher of Justin Turner’s walk-off game too!
Closing the First Dodgers World Series Win in 29 Years (October 24, 2017)
Dodgers fans waited almost three decades just to host a World Series game again, which is unthinkable. But Jansen helped make that wait worth it, securing an easy 3-1 victory with a save in game one.
A Six-Out Save to Force Game Seven (October 31, 2017)
Thinking of Jansen going for a six-out save in the World Series is the stuff of nightmares. You know the drill…Marwin Gonzalez, Jackie Bradley Jr., Steve Pearce. Each one cost the Dodgers dearly in too many ways.
But it’s worth noting that there is one time Jansen made it work, in an elimination game no less. Down 3-2 in the series, Jansen was called upon to reprise his failed game two experiment, this time with a 3-1 lead.
This time, he made it work. In the eighth, he retired Carlos Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Brian McCann. In the ninth, he dialed his stuff up even more to get Gonzalez (!) on a pop-up, before Josh Reddick and Carlos Beltran were blown away on strikeouts. He would also pitch well in game seven…sadly, at a point where it didn’t matter.
The big man has been much maligned this season, but he remains the proud owner of some of the finest moments in recent Dodgers history.