The sight was familiar, but the sound wasn’t as the game flipped to the ninth inning Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. Kenley Jansen jogged in from the Dodgers’ bullpen for a save situation as he has every year since 2012, but the ballpark DJ didn’t play “California Love.” Instead, Tupac’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” thumped from the speakers towering over the center-field wall while Jansen prepared to protect a two-run lead against the Colorado Rockies.
“Just a new beginning, man,” Jansen said. “It’s time to start fresh.”
So, gone is the soundtrack of Jansen’s career, a song that became synonymous with his dominance at his peak. But Jansen no longer resides at his peak. Dominance hasn’t been as consistent for him anymore. His stuff has come and gone in recent years, seemingly at random from outing to outing.
It didn’t look like he had his good stuff Wednesday at the start when he walked the leadoff hitter, Dom Nuñez, on five pitches. The skeptical crowd reacted with loud boos. But he quickly recovered, striking out the next three batters to close out the Dodgers’ 4-2 win for his third save. It was the right-hander’s second straight dominant appearance, three days after his best performance of the season against the Washington Nationals on Sunday.
“I’m not perfect,” Jansen said. “I don’t want to come in walking guys. Not what I’m trying to do. We all want to win here. To me, that’s just nonsense. It’s noise. I’m gonna continue to work my ass off and help Dodgers win another championship. That’s what I’m here for.”
The strong finish sealed the Dodgers’ fifth straight win, improving their major league-best record to 10-2. The Rockies (3-9) have dropped five consecutive games and five consecutive games against the Dodgers since taking the teams’ opening day meeting.
Rarely are managers so furious so quickly, but Rockies manager Bud Black was fuming in the third inning. He thought home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi was giving Dustin May strikes and he knew that spelled trouble. The Rockies hadn’t scored since Saturday. May, the Dodgers’ No. 5 pitcher, was slinging 100-mph darts. He didn’t need help.
So Black voiced his displeasure when a pitch he thought was below the strike zone was called a strike and didn’t relent until Cuzzi tossed him from the game. The next pitch was an 86-mph curveball over the plate. Garrett Hampson froze, striking out on three pitches, and May kept Colorado off the board.
The Rockies broke through in the fifth inning on Trevor Story’s RBI single, ending a 26-inning scoreless streak. May’s start, his second of the season and first in nine days, abruptly ended later in the inning with the bases loaded and one out. Victor González retired the next two hitters but allowed one of the inherited runs to score.
May, as a result, was charged with two runs on seven hits across 41/3 innings. He recorded six strikeouts to one walk. He generated eight swing-and-misses and threw 71 pitches. The double he gave up to Ryan McMahon in the fourth inning was the first extra-base hit a Dodgers starter yielded since Saturday.
May’s outing was the first by a Dodgers starter that lasted fewer than five innings this season. Dodgers starters have pitched at least six innings in nine of their 12 games. The rotation boasted a 2.34 earned-run average, the second-best mark in the majors, entering Wednesday, propelling the club to the best record in the sport.
“This is our No. 5 guy going tonight,” Dodgers reliever David Price said, “and he’s sitting at 100 mph with a whole lot of run and sink.”
On the other side, Jon Gray gave up three runs over 41/3 innings, continuing starters’ inability to pitch deep into games against the Dodgers this season. Opposing starting pitchers have pitched into the fifth inning in just six of the Dodgers’ 12 games.
The Dodgers jumped on Gray quickly in the first inning. Justin Turner cracked an RBI single. Gavin Lux lifted a sacrifice fly.
Turner led off the third inning with a solo home run that crept over the wall in left field, into the new row of seats along the outfield’s perimeter and onto a fan’s plate of nachos. Cheese splattered everywhere, covering the man’s green jacket. He triumphantly lifted the ball anyway. Moments later, a friend dipped a chip into the cheese and ate it.
The Rockies, unconvinced by the sloppy evidence, challenged the ruling of a home run. The call stood. Turner had his third home run of the season after entering the year with five home runs in 521 career plate appearances in March and April. Turner later had replacement nachos sent to the fan.
González, Blake Treinen, and Scott Alexander combined to keep the Rockies scoreless in the sixth and seventh innings. Corey Knebel grabbed the baton and continued his dominant season with a perfect, six-pitch eighth inning.
Zach McKinstry then lined a ball off Rockies closer Daniel Bard in the bottom of the frame for his third home run of the season to double the Dodgers’ cushion for Jansen.
He didn’t need the insurance. He found the feel he was so desperately looking for over the last two years in his second pitch Sunday against the Nationals. He discovered it again after walking Nuñez on and hearing the boos Wednesday. His velocity jumped. The movement on his pitches increased. He said he was pitching angry.
“Gotta be angry,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
Who’s he angry at?
“Myself,” he said. “It’s Kenley versus Kenley.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.