The Los Angeles Dodgers have one of the better closers in all of baseball in Kenley Jansen. After missing the first six weeks of the regular season as he recovered from left foot surgery, Jansen has converted on all six of his save opportunities.
While Jansen has been lights-out thus far, getting him the ball has at times been an issue for the Dodgers. Such was the case Sunday night as they were clinging to a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning. Adam Liberatore had already come on for Zack Greinke in the seventh and recorded the final out of the inning.
Juan Nicasio then came on in relief after Libearatore issued a leadoff walk to Matt Carpet in the eighth. The right-hander went on to allow three hits that led to three runs and the Cardinals taking a decided 4-2 lead.
When asked why Nicasio was next out of the bullpen Dodgers manager Don Mattingly tied it to his previous success. “He’s been throwing the ball best for us, really, late in the game,” he said.
“Whatever you do there, whatever choice I make, if they don’t get their outs, then it’s going to be, ‘why not the other guy?’ We feel like Juan has been throwing the ball well for us.” A Dodgers bullpen that was rebuilt during the offseason has fallen from grace as results even out and/or injuries have taken their toll.
Mattingly acknowledged as much. “There’s been a number of things that have happened to us in different games, that haven’t been good for one guy or another,” he said. “We haven’t been, obviously, as consistent as we were early, when everyone seemed to be getting their outs.
“We’re searching for someone to get the ball to Kenley.” While Jansen was recovering from offseason surgery, the Dodgers relied on any combination of Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher and Joel Peralta late in games.
Both Garcia and Hatcher have had their share of bumps in the road, and Baez and Peralta are both on the disabled list. The Dodgers bullpen ranks fourth in the Majors with a 3.37 ERA and have the third-best .659 OPS (allowed). Additionally, their 1.20 WHIP and 8.68 strikeout-per-nine-innings rank fourth in the Majors.
Once Baez and perhaps Brandon League, who pitched better last year than public perception would have you believe, return, Mattingly’s job in lining up and mixing his group of relievers to protect the lead so that Jansen can take the mound in the ninth, may become easier.