The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 6-5 win over the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of their National League Division Series was far more suspenseful than fans of the Boys in Blue preferred.
Clayton Kershaw wasn’t as sharp as in his Wild Card round appearance. But that should’ve been expected against a far more powerful San Diego lineup. In the sixth inning, another Kershaw postseason meltdown looked imminent. Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back homers, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 4-3. Uh-oh.
The Dodgers rebounded in the seventh, adding two runs (one driven in by Max Muncy, who went 2-for-4 with two RBI). So handing over a 6-3 lead to Kenley Jansen in the ninth seemed like a relatively stress-free scenario, right? Well…
Jansen confirmed everyone’s worst fears, including those of manager Dave Roberts, allowing three hits and two runs. The Padres had a chance to win the game and tie the series when they should’ve been put away. But Jansen can’t get opposing hitters out anymore with a cutter that can’t miss or break bats.
The real issue is that Roberts didn’t have another reliever if — when — Jansen faltered. Jansen had thrown 20 pitches to the first three batters he faced. He should’ve been pulled then, yet faced two more hitters and threw 10 more pitches. Maybe Roberts hoped Jansen could succeed against the bottom of the Padres’ lineup. That misjudgment almost cost the Dodgers the ballgame.
Is Joe Kelly the answer at closer? He walked Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Manny Machado upon taking over, so probably not. Brusdar Graterol? The easy criticism is that Roberts should’ve left him in, though he’d already faced four batters and would’ve allowed a game-tying homer if not for Cody Bellinger’s magnificent catch at the center field wall.
It’s inexplicable that a team as good as the Dodgers has such uncertainty at closer. Yet here they are. Who’s the guy now? It certainly can’t be Jansen now.
Yet the Dodgers won in spite of these nightmare scenarios playing out. That, along with the emergence of Bellinger and Muncy at the plate, is reason for optimism. Winning a bit more easily would sure feel better, though.
Ian Casselberry watchdogs sports media for Awful Announcing. He’s covered baseball for SB Nation, Yahoo Sports and MLive, and was one of Bleacher Report’s first lead MLB writers. Please follow Ian on Twitter @iancass and give him a listen at The Podcass.