When the Dodgers acquired Brandon League last season and made him their closer many people wondered why they’d do that with a far superior option available in Kenley Jansen. And then when the Dodgers re-signed League to a bloated three-year, $22.5 million deal and stuck with him as their closer many people wondered the same thing again.
Things have played out as expected, with League struggling in the closer role and Jansen being his usual dominant self as a setup man, and manager Don Mattingly appears to have finally seen the light.
Jansen got the nod over League to record the final out (and save) after Clayton Kershaw came up just short of a complete-game shutout last night and afterward Mattingly was evasive when asked if ninth-inning duties had changed hands:
We’ll see. I don’t know if I really have to set roles. We always talk about where we’re at in the lineup. I know we like to create controversies and all that. Honestly, I prefer having roles where everybody knows where they’re at. But tonight I felt like Kenley was the best shot of getting that guy out.
He’s right of course, although the same applies every night.
Jansen debuted in 2010 and has thrown 166 innings with a 2.23 ERA, .152 opponents’ batting average, and 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings, which is arguably the most dominant performance of any pitcher in baseball during that time.
Over the same span League has thrown 227 innings with a 3.34 ERA, .241 opponents’ batting average, and 6.4 strikeouts per nine innings, which would be perfectly good late-inning relief work and perhaps even closer-worthy if not for the fact that Jansen is on the same team.
The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.
Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.
Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.
James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.
The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.