Kenley Jansen ended a stirring comeback victory by the Dodgers in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on a high note, reaching vintage velocity as he struck out the side to finish the Dodgers’ 7-3 win Friday.
As the Dodgers head into this afternoon’s Game 6, still needing to win today and Sunday to advance to the World Series, the bullpen is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with no reliever throwing more than 20 pitches. But even if Walker Buehler overcomes his blister issues to give the Dodgers length today, the Dodger pitching staff is walking a tightrope.
It’s almost certain that for the Dodgers to win the NL pennant, they are going to need a starter to pitch in relief.
First, however, Los Angeles needs to get through Game 6. Two of their pitchers, Brusdar Graterol and Victor González, pitched each of the last two days. They’re both young, but a third day in a row is risky. Jansen, of course, is a question mark on whether he can repeat his inspiring performance. Did he really find an answer to his troubles, or is this just another wave in his recent inconsistency?
Jansen said he's had phone calls with Charlie Hough and Rick Honeycutt. They showed him pictures of the past, and he's trying to get back to simplifying his delivery and getting back to the basics. He felt things click yesterday.
— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) October 17, 2020
No other reliever on the staff has thrown more than 20 pitches since Wednesday, including Blake Treinen, who went two innings Friday but only used 19 pitches.
In a way, an unsung performance out of the bullpen has come from the last man added, Alex Wood. It went unnoticed amid the Dodgers’ 15-3 Game 3 onslaught, but a day after hurling 40 pitches over 1 2/3 innings in Game 2, Wood came back to give the Dodgers another inning Thursday. That might not seem like much, but it did spare another reliever work, and every little bit helps.
As was the case with May on Friday, the Dodgers won’t be able to afford to withstand a shaky performance by Buehler today — especially with Max Fried on the mound for Atlanta. The Dodger bullpen slumped in the opening games of this series like at no other time in 2020, to the point where it didn’t seem like any reliever could be counted upon for a shutout inning. The bullpen bounced back Friday, but it only gets more challenging for the remainder of this pursuit of a pennant.