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By Jon Weisman
In more than 100 years, no reliever had ever entered the ninth inning of a game against the Dodgers with a four-run lead, blown the lead and won the game.
But that’s what happened when the Mets’ Jeurys Familia gave up a bases-loaded walk to Yasmani Grandal and a three-run double to Chase Utley (the latest memorable moment for Utley) – then emerged the winning pitcher on Curtis Granderson’s home run off Pedro Baez, 6-5.
Via Baseball-Reference.com, the closest equivalent was September 27, 2011, when Arizona’s Micah Owings started the 10th inning of a 1-1 game against the Dodgers and allowed five runs before the Diamondbacks scored six in the bottom of the inning off Blake Hawksworth and Javy Guerra, capped by a Ryan Roberts grand slam.
In his previous two seasons in the Major Leagues, home runs had not been the problem for Baez that they are this year. He has already given up a career-high five homers in 21 innings this season, after allowing four in 51 innings last season. This was the first walkoff homer against him in his career, and the fourth in three seasons that had allowed the opponent to tie the game or take the lead.
Like other franchises, through different managers and front offices, the Dodgers have been almost completely consistent as an organization in their reluctance to use Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning or later in a tie game on the road, which is the most precarious situation a reliever can find himself in. The last time it happened was actually following another Dodger comeback against Familia in New York, on July 26, 2015 — after the winning run had reached scoring position with one out in the 10th inning. Three pitches later, a Juan Uribe hit drove in that run.
Similarly, Jansen came into the 10th inning of a 2015 tie game at Chicago on June 23 with the winning run already in scoring position (bases were loaded). Addison Russell hit into a force play at home, but Chris Denorfia’s sacrifice fly won the game for the Cubs.
As far as I can tell, the last time Jansen entered a tie game in the ninth inning or later, on the road, at the start of an inning, was July 10, 2013, and that was only after five other relievers had pitched — including Chris Withrow in the 10th, 11th and 12th innings. Jansen pitched a shutout 13th inning, the Dodgers scored two in the 14th on an A.J. Ellis home run, and Jansen finished a second inning for the win.
So history shows that the last time Jansen was used in an away tie, it worked! So many bloggers stating “it just isn’t done.”
If you mean the last time he was used in an away tie to start the inning, it worked, but it wasn’t until the 13th inning three years ago. I think the “it isn’t done” lament is valid.