A year ago Sunday, the Los Angeles Dodgers started their incredible 42-8 run that sent them flying into the playoffs as the hottest team in baseball.
This season’s start has been no different from last season’s. The offense came out of gate flat, the bullpen has seen more than enough issues, and the Dodgers find themselves trailing in the NL West.
Fortunately for the Dodgers and their fans, the team has decided to start what looks to be another run this season. Behind what has been one of the most dominating month of pitching performances by the starting rotation, the Dodgers have crawled their way back into the race to win the NL West.
And now that the offense has seemed to have found its rhythm, the Dodger bullpen is the last group to get the hint.
Dodgers relievers rank 13th out of 15 NL teams in ERA, 11th in batting average against and 13th in WHIP. Just Friday night, the team witnessed a depressing example of their relievers’ struggles, with closer Kenley Jansen coughing up three ninth-inning runs. Without the loss, the Dodgers would be carrying a six-game winning streak into Kansas City.
Even with his struggles, Jansen has pitched in the last three games. In Sunday’s game, Jansen mowed through San Diego’s bottom half of the ninth inning; needing only 13 pitches to strikeout the side.
In Mark Saxon’s ESPN LA article, Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis said he was impressed with Jansen’s ninth inning:
“Today was as good as I’ve caught him all season long, the way his ball was moving,” Ellis said. “When you’re throwing balls pretty much down the middle of the plate, and you’re getting swings and misses, it shows you’re pretty dominant. That’s what Kenley was doing today.”
Dodgers pitching coaches Rick Honeycutt, Chuck Crim and Kenny Howell all got together with him in the bullpen Saturday and worked on getting the parts of his delivery in better rhythm. After that, Jansen, pitching to many of the same hitters, recorded two saves and helped ensure the Dodgers’ feel-good stretch continued.
After Jansen’s past solid outings, manager Don Mattingly had some encouraging things to say.
“For him to make a quick correction — sometimes you don’t even realize this stuff is going on — tells you how good he is.”
It’s no question the Dodgers need Jansen to return to form if they want to make another run deep into the playoffs. After seeing his past couple outings and hearing what his catcher and coaching staff have had to say about him, the time may have come for the bullpen to become stable, which is a sentiment J.P. Howell expressed.
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