Jansen helps Dodgers end Rox playoff bid
Reliever seals first four-out save after LA tallies four homers
DENVER -- The only Dodgers reliever to have a clean outing in Tuesday night's wild 9-7 win over the Rockies was George Sherrill, but he knows it's too little too late.
"I'm pretty sure I won't be here next year," said Sherrill, an almost automatic non-tender candidate because he would be guaranteed a salary of at least $3.6 million through arbitration despite struggling to a 7.01 ERA. "Just because of how this year has gone. If I had had a good year, I think we'd have had a better year."
The last comment can also be said for deposed closer Jonathan Broxton, who wobbled again against the Rockies (three batters, two hits), and Ronald Belisario, who blew a save in the seventh inning by allowing a tying homer to Dexter Fowler after Hiroki Kuroda served up a homer to Todd Helton.
After all that, with Hong-Chih Kuo unavailable because he saved Monday night's game, rookie Kenley Jansen rode to the rescue for his first four-out save, a difficult 36-pitch achievement after he walked the first two batters he faced and forced in a run.
The Dodgers got four home runs -- two from Casey Blake, one each from Matt Kemp and James Loney. They blew a four-run lead in the seventh inning, but Rafael Furcal's second RBI triple of the game in the eighth cashed in a clutch double by hot-hitting A.J. Ellis. Blake added an insurance homer in the ninth and the Dodgers had eliminated the Rockies from postseason consideration.
"When you get down in a game and you get back into the game, you can't continue to give it back to them and force your offense to keep having to come back," said Colorado manager Jim Tracy. "They're professionals. That's why you see these games being managed in the manner they are. If you know you're going home, you're looking to take somebody with you."
Meanwhile, the perpetual state of flux in the Dodgers' bullpen was again on display. Manager Joe Torre continued to issue votes of confidence for Broxton, but Jansen's stock is going through the roof. In 23 games, he's allowed two earned runs in 25 innings for a 0.73 ERA with 36 strikeouts, as well as an alarming 15 walks.
"I don't think so," Torre said when asked if Jansen could be incoming manager Don Mattingly's closer next year. "He has a lot to learn. It's tough to take a small sampling and run with it. Experience means so much. It's nice for him to have some experience closing. But I just talked to Donnie and he feels strongly with Broxton."
For confidence-boosting purposes, the comments are understandable. But as Takashi Saito replaced Eric Gagne and Broxton replaced Saito, it's no leap to think that Jansen can be the Dodgers' power right-handed reliever if Broxton can't.
Jansen, who turns 23 on Thursday and has been pitching for fewer than two years after failing as a catcher, already has as many saves since his July 23 promotion as Broxton has since he saved the All-Star Game -- three.
"He looks like he's pitched a lot longer than a year," said Torre. "He has a real good personality. He seems to handle stress."
Jansen made his job extra tough by giving up a leadoff single to Fowler in the ninth inning, which meant he had to face cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki as the potential tying run, but he struck him out to end the game.
"I didn't feel I had my best stuff, but I battled through it," said Jansen, who opened this season at Class A and will report to the instructional league next week to work on fundamentals. "My mind-set is I think I'm the best and you're not going to hit me. That's my attitude all the time, to be aggressive and attack the zone."
The win should have gone to Kuroda, who had a 5-1 lead in the third inning to work with, thanks to a five-run third inning that he started with a leadoff single, his second hit in 55 at-bats. Then he scored from first on Furcal's first triple.
He said when he returned to the dugout after chugging around the bases in the thin mile-high air, trainers administered oxygen.
"Just a little," Kuroda said. "It's harder to run the bases here."
It's also harder to throw breaking balls. The one he had going in the bullpen during pregame warmups wasn't going to work, so catcher Ellis suggested an adjustment that Ted Lilly implemented the night before.
"Ted told me yesterday he just lowered his sights, and that's what I suggested he do," said Ellis. "Once he did that, I started to see the same breaking ball I'd see every other start."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.