With the Dodgers a lock for the postseason, one big question remains their bullpen. Tuesday’s game provided the type of test the pen can build off of.
After Monday night’s victory, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts was asked if the Cardinals were a type of team that gives the Dodgers a barometer. Roberts replied that his club is the one that sets the barometer for other teams. While that is true, there are still teams that can help sharpen the blue for the postseason.
The St. Louis Cardinals are one of those teams. Not only are they a half-game back of the second NL wildcard spot, but the Cards are also a team that has always been a thorn in the side for LA. While the Dodgers clinched a series victory over St. Louis on Tuesday night, the game was anything but easy and gave the bullpen a great test.
After Clayton Kershaw finished up seven strong innings en route to another solid outing, the keys were turned over the newest Dodger reliever, Adam Kolarek. Although Kolarek failed to record an out against Kolten Wong, he got the type of result that will work nine times out of ten. Wong hit a weak ground ball that had an exit velocity of 66.6 MPH.
The only reason Wong’s ball got through the infield was that the Dodgers deployed a shift. In a standard infield defense, the grounder would’ve gone right to Justin Turner for a routine 5-3 putout. Although the box score shows Adam Kolarek failed to do his job, he induced the kind of weak contact you look for.
Then there was the rest of the eighth inning that was handled by Pedro Baez. Although Petey worked himself into a bases-loaded jam, it provided another pressure cooked opportunity for him to work out of and that is exactly what he did. He got Paul Goldschmidt a notorious Dodger killer to line out and lower the .043 average that Goldy has against Baez.
Although Baez did not have control of his slider last night, his fastball was spot on and he escaped the jam by blowing a 97 MPH heater right by Paul DeJong. It certainly wasn’t Pedro’s best outing but he worked around bad slider command and a tight strike zone to keep the lead intact. He did his job.
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Kenley Jansen came in for the ninth after Baez worked through the heart of the Cardinals’ lineup. Jansen looked like a pitcher in control using his slider effectively and spotting his cutter in good spots. When his cutter did miss, it missed away from the plate which is exactly where it should miss. He only had a couple of cutters that were placed in bad spots.
Like Petey before him, Kenley Jansen worked himself into a bit of trouble allowing a single. Like Kolarek’s base hit, this was another instance where the shift went against the Dodgers. Andrew Knizner hit an 83.5 MPH ground ball that got past Max Muncy. It went exactly where the second baseman would normally play without a defensive shift.
Kenley went on to strikeout Kolten Wong to end the game after that single by Knizner. Even though he made things interesting as most closers tend to do, Jansen recorded another save and restored some faith from Dodger fans that have gone away in recent months.
Tuesday night’s game was exactly the type of game the Dodgers will need down the stretch to sort out their postseason bullpen. The pen did their job on Tuesday night and hopefully, they do their job plenty of nights in October.