Dodgers' Jansen has heater back after early fall struggles
With 2-1 in the World Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers have math on their side against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Here is a number, courtesy of Kenley Jansen, that could mean as much as any other: 95.2.
After slumping on his signature cutter at slippery speed and a toothless bite for weeks, the tall man on the back of LA's bullpen delivered his toughest fastball in over a month, finishing a 6-2 win in Game 3 on Friday night.
The 95.2 mph fastball, which beat All-Star Austin Meadows in ninth, was Jansen's toughest since September 2nd. Despite allowing Randy Arozarena a homer, the right-handed man looked like he'd overcome the struggles that briefly cost him the sewing job he'd held on for years.
Thirty-eight of 59 previous teams who won Game 3 by a 2-1 lead won the league title. Maintaining that advantage will be a lot easier when the Dodgers' longtime seamstress has his best stuff.
Jansen has been a staple of LA throughout his eight consecutive NL West titles, but the 33-year-old started in 2018, the same season he suffered from an irregular heartbeat that resulted in a heart correction in November. The right handed has been good - if not great - for the past two years.
At the beginning of this postseason he became completely unreliable. His pace dropped in late September and he hit just 91.3 mph in his first playoff game, a wild card round game against Milwaukee on September 30, in which he managed to get away with a save despite bad things and commands .
A week later, he allowed two runs and was nearly three runs ahead of San Diego in Game 2 of the NL Division Series. He was removed from the game - and from the turnkey job entirely.
Jansen didn't start at all in the next three games in LA and took a week off to study his mechanics and try to get him on the track.
He came back with a goalless 10-pitch outing during a blowout win against Atlanta in the NL Championship Series - but without cracking 92 mph. Two nights later in Game 5, he knocked out the side of an unsafe situation against the Braves in the ninth inning and hit 94.5 mph. He earned the save in game 6 and went 1-2-3 at similar speed in the ninth.
After five days off, Jansen returned on Friday with even more in the tank.
He started with a three-pitch Meadows strikeout that was covered by his best heater. He then threw two quick punches at another All-Star, Brandon Lowe, before Lowe jumped right out.
Jansen scored 3-2 against Arozarena, a fastball chasing breakout star that fall, before the rookie put in a center-cut sinker and knocked him out for a solo homer. Ji-Man Choi flew out three pitches later to finish it.
Apart from Homer, it was as promising as Jansen could have had. Eleven of his 15 parking spaces have been on strike, and since he was suspended, he has thrown 34 of the 43 parking spaces in the zone.
The entire back of the Los Angeles bullpen looked sharp after not being used in Games 1 and 2. Blake Treinen was up to 98.8 mph on his bowling ball sinker, knocking out two during a perfect seventh place. Brusdar Graterol followed with an effortless fastball that hit 102 mph and finished eighth on just seven fields.
"I wanted to get Blake to shorten the game," said manager Dave Roberts. "He hasn't played with Brusdar for four to five days." It hadn't been in Kenley for five days, so I wanted to make sure he got in there. "
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