Quick, who has more World Series saves, Kenley Jansen or Blake Treinen?
It's not a trick question. The answer is Jansen, with two lifetime Series saves, to Treinen’s one. The latter’s came in Game 5 Sunday night in Texas, in his first such opportunity. Kenley recorded his saves in Games 1 and 6 of the 2017 Fall Classic, both of which ended in 3-1 Dodgers victories.
Of course, Jansen blew a save in Game 2 and lost Game 5 of the 2017 Fall Classic and allowed a run in a non-save opportunity in Game 4. Equally as memorable, Kenley blew his most recent chance Saturday night in Game 4 this time around.
Like you, I can do the math, and it’s ugly. Jansen has blown two of his of four career World Series opportunities, for a nauseating 50 percent mark. Some researcher more ambitious than I may find a lesser record (with the identical sample size) in World Series history, but if there is such a number, I can’t think of it. And I don’t want to.
Treinen, of course, sports a 100 percent success rate in Series saves, with his inspiring four-batter goose egg Sunday to put Los Angeles a win away from a championship. A leadoff single to Manuel Margot was followed by an Austin Meadows strikeout, a little fly ball off the bat of Joey Wendle and a strikeout of Wily Adames to end it.
That's a World Series save where I come from. A big-time, big-stage, dramatic-as-hell World Series save. Now tell me you were thinking "thank God they didn't go to Jansen," or some such thing, possibly accompanied by an expletive, immediately after the final pitch.
Tell me you're not thinking exactly what I'm thinking now, and that I'll say, because it's as plain as day and because this is no time for pussycleating around: In the absence of a long extra inning game or an emergency with no alternative imaginable, Jansen should not pitch again in the series. Not under any circumstance beyond the two mentioned above. Period, end of discussion. The goal is to win a World Series, not lift the spirits of a fading ball player. A dogpile which he is not on the bottom of plus a piece of fine jewelry should be all the spirit lifting required. And I'm pretty sure the price of diamonds has gone up a smidge in the last 32 years.
Now, to the frightening part. Here's what L.A. manager Dave Roberts said about going to Treinen last night in the ninth inning instead of the incumbent Jansen:
"They’re both great choices. With Margot, I liked Blake right there and he gave up a grounder. We’ve leaned on Kenley. [He] hasn’t done three in a row in quite some time, but we’ve done three in a row with Blake. I just liked it right there. Kenley is high-leverage. They’re both unbelievable guys in high-leverage.”
When asked a follow-up question about Game 6, the skipper replied: "I just see a lot of our guys, Kenley and Blake in particular, high-leverage. Whatever that means. I think conventionally it’s closing, but we’re just peeling back a layer on that. Kenley went two in a row, Blake went two in a row. I just know we’ve done Blake three in a row more times than not. To feel he can bounce back that third day is an easier bet for me. Kenley I thought threw the ball well [in Game 4]. Just unlucky. So, come Game 6, Kenley will be ready to pitch high-leverage.”
That's some two-step by Roberts there. It's gobbledegoop, actually, and a lot to unpack. First, two great choices? Uh, no. There's one great choice, Roberts made it last night and got the win, with Treinen. Second, no; Kenley is not high-leverage. Third, Kenley didn't throw the ball well Saturday night. He allowed a walk and two hits, the second of which came on an inexcusably-bad 0-2 pitch to a guy who hit .150 during the regular season and has mashed to the tune of .202/.284/.347 in his four-year career.
Perhaps we can parse words and hang our hat on a specific sentence. And as a matter of fact, let's: "So, come Game 6, Kenley will be ready to pitch high-leverage.” Did you catch that? Roberts said Jansen will be ready to pitch high-leverage," not that he'd be used in high-leverage. Or as Roberts said earlier, "whatever that means."
Tony Gonsolin will start, and hopefully, with a more insistent approach from pitching coach Mark Prior, be allowed to get into a rhythm and go four, five or (gasp!) even six innings.
Gonsolin's 2020 ERA in innings one through five was 2.09. He's held opponents to a .209 batting average in innings one through six. Slash lines for hitters in their first plate appearance against the 25-year-old right-hander in a start are .174/.197/.245, .228/.286/.333 in the second plate appearance and .053/.053/.053 in the third. The talent is there.
On the other hand, Gonsolin's ERA this postseason is 9.39. Perhaps we can chalk that up to a 17-day break between his last regular season outing and his first in the postseason, an usual relief appearance in his second appearance and a quick hook in the third. But if the club is confident enough to run him out there to start Game 6 of a World Series, it ought to give him a shot at success. Removing him with one on and one out in the second inning after a one-run first, as was the case in Game 2, does not qualify.
Roberts will have fully-rested relief options in Dylan Floro, Victor Gonzalez, Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, Adam Kolarek, Jake McGee and Treinen to choose from tomorrow night. He may also have Dustin May and Julio Urias, with one and two day's rest respectively, as well. That's plenty of ammunition to go all out to win Game 6 and still have enough to be ready to back up Walker Buehler in a potential seventh game. Pedro Baez, Jansen and Alex Wood are technically available, but shouldn't be used in anything other than a blowout.
I imagine that Roberts will have one plan to come get Gonsolin with men on base early and separate plans to relieve him after three, four and five innings. Gravy if the starter can go six. All concerned relievers will have been alerted to their prospective uses in advance. They'll all be prepared to fill a role.
It's fine for Jansen to prepare too, but that's as far as it can be allowed to go. He can't be relied upon to perform and must sit this one out. Floro, Gonsolin, Gonzalez, Graterol, Kelly, Kolarek, May (possibly), Treinen and Urias (probably) are your men. Not Kenley. Just not Kenley. Can we agree on that plan for Game 6, please? Thank you.
And remember, glove conquers all.