Alexander: Can Dodger fans learn to trust their bullpen?

first_img Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season “Stay the course. I think they should have the confidence in those guys that I do. And I think a lot of times that the bullpen, the failures or when guys don’t get outs, that always stays at the forefront of your mind. And when they (have) clean innings and get outs, then that always seems to be lost.“So I have a lot of confidence in our guys.”Maybe Kenley Jansen’s three most recent outings, including a four-out save in Tuesday night’s 7-5 victory over Tampa Bay, have indeed made a difference. Jansen now has 30 saves but has blown seven, has three losses and has allowed nine home runs while dealing with a noticeable dip in velocity.But he appeared to have that devastating cutter back in his arsenal during an inning last Thursday in Baltimore and another Sunday night against a Mets club still battling for a wild-card berth. Both nights he found a little extra at the end, with a 94.7 mph cutter for the final out against the Orioles and a 94.5 mph effort to strike out Pete Alonso and end the eighth inning Sunday night in New York.Tuesday night he got two strikeouts and three ground balls among the five men he faced after replacing Kenta Maeda with two out in the eighth. The Rays’ lone baserunner was on a Joey Wendle ground ball that squirted through first baseman Cody Bellinger’s legs. Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire LOS ANGELES — It sounds really funny, for a team that is bearing down on 100 victories and has already pocketed its seventh straight division title. But when the bullpen gate opens, a good number of Dodger fans – and especially those on social media – assume the position of the puppy admonished for relieving itself on the carpet: Cowering in a corner, bracing for the worst.Two straight World Series of Dodgers relievers throwing pitches that wound up soaring over outfield fences will do that to you. A summer of relievers giving up homers will, too, even though it should have been well established by now that everybody on every staff is giving up home runs at a prodigious rate in 2019.It doesn’t matter. The last two years have honed the fatalism of Dodger fans.Dave Roberts, asked what he’d tell those fans, responded this way Tuesday evening:center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco “Roles are easy to change, as long as you’re not surprised by it,” Kelly said. “Going into the playoffs everyone knows that they could pitch from the first out to the last out. Knowing that is going to be beneficial.”None of this will absolutely satisfy the anxiety of the fan base, nor should it be expected to. That won’t be eradicated unless and until a Dodgers pitcher secures that final World Series out.But consider: A month and a half ago, fans were up in arms that the Dodgers didn’t trade multiple prospects, including Gavin Lux, to Pittsburgh for closer Felipe Vázquez at the deadline.Given the events of Tuesday, when Vázquez was arrested on charges of sex crimes involving a minor, I would imagine Dodger fans are now even more thankful that trade was never on Twitter Are three solid outings enough to stop those cries of “Oh, no, not Kenley” when he begins warming up? (And trust me, I know of at least one household where those cries are heard when the game is on, in multiple rooms.)“I’m confident that it’s gonna be there,” Jansen said before Tuesday’s game. “So all I gotta do is feel it, and then I go from there.”Jansen said the feel for the cutter returned while he was playing long toss in the outfield earlier in the Baltimore series:“The arm is catching up earlier now instead of dragging all the time,” he said. “(I was) trying to figure out why – why this, why that – and now, the thing is, it kind of clicked.”The effectiveness of the cutter is one thing. Mixing his pitches is another, and something Jansen has not always done efficiently. The more sliders Jansen throws, the more he keeps opposing hitters off-balance. Tuesday night he threw eight cutters, six sliders and five four-seam fastballs, topping out at 94 mph and with enough variance to keep Rays hitters guessing.“Most of it is the fundamentals, the mechanics,” Roberts said before the game. “When you can’t make pitches and repeat, then it starts to bleed into the mind where you start to get frustrated. But obviously Kenley, physically (and) mechanically, is in a really good place.”Obviously.Jansen’s readiness for the ninth inning is one issue. Who will precede him, and in what order, is another. The Dodgers have spent much of the second half auditioning arms, but it might turn out to be a process of mixing and matching and using unconventional methods, as the Astros and Red Sox both did the past two years.That will require buy-in from pitchers asked to step out of their comfort zone. We’ve already seen it from Maeda, who has generally been more effective as a reliever (although he gave up three runs on Tuesday, including a two-run homer to Jesús Aguilar, but got the win). Roberts mentioned the possibility of nine relievers on a 12-man staff – which would mean potentially using an “opener” in a Game 4 and making it a bullpen game – so some further adjustments will be necessary.Was Tuesday night against the Rays a preview? If so, stock up on beverages and snacks. Roberts and Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash each used eight pitchers and the game lasted 3 hours, 43 minutes.But no, Roberts said, he won’t have a Game 4 starter pitch to the leadoff hitter and then come out, as the Brewers did with Wade Miley during last year’s NLCS.“That’s not going to happen,” Roberts said. “That, I can assure you.”Joe Kelly, a key piece in the Red Sox bullpen last year and a significant factor in the Dodgers’ bullpen now, indicated the success of such adjustments will be helped by Roberts and his staff keeping their pitchers informed of the possibilities. That plays to one of the strengths of the manager and his coaches, communication.Related Articleslast_img

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