Friday, October 4, 2013
Serious question: Which team has the better closer?
By Mark Saxon
ATLANTA – The Atlanta Braves were said to have one big edge coming into this series: the bullpen.
And, in one regard, that’s right. The last thing the Los Angeles Dodgers want to be doing in any of these games is trying to rally off Craig Kimbrel, who was as tough to hit as any pitcher in baseball. But is it really an edge when the Dodgers have virtually the same guy at the back end of their bullpen?
With less fanfare, Kenley Jansen has pitched comparably to Kimbrel, without the 97 mph fastball or virtually unhittable slider.
Jansen finished second among major-league relievers with 111 strikeouts, one behind the Cincinnati Reds’ Aroldis Chapman. He had a 0.86 WHIP, incrementally better than Kimbrels’. The Braves closer holds a slight edge in ERA and opponents’ OPS, .487 to .509, but a big one in saves, 50 to 21.
One of the less-heralded reasons for the Dodgers’ June turnaround was the change in closers, from Brandon League to Jansen. It has stabilized the Dodgers’ entire bullpen and given the rest of the team confidence that a one-run lead will hold.
Jansen got his feet wet, making his postseason debut in a scoreless ninth inning in a non-save situation in Game 1. As he’s done so many times this season, Jansen struck out the side.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly thinks Jansen’s dynamic season hasn’t gotten much attention because of the mid-season change and the fact the Dodgers play so many games after the rest of the country has gone to bed.
“It won’t take long. He’s going to get his due,” Mattingly said. “I’m sure people within baseball recognize him. We love our numbers and his are pretty good.”
Here are lineups for Friday’s Game 2 at Turner Field:
1. Carl Crawford LF
2. Mark Ellis 2B
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
4. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
5. Yasiel Puig RF
6. Juan Uribe 3B
7. Skip Schumaker CF
8. A.J. Ellis C
9. Zack Greinke RHP
1. Jason Heyward CF
2. Justin Upton RF
3. Freddie Freeman 1B
4. Evan Gattis LF
5. Brian McCann C
6. Chris Johnson 3B
7. Andrelton Simmons SS
8. Elliot Johnson 2B
9. Mike Minor LHP