Kenley Jansen had faced Buster Posey 25 times over the last decade or so before Monday night, the Dodgers’ closer giving up eight hits — none for extra bases — for a .320 batting average, striking him out six times and walking him three times.
But Jansen had a new wrinkle for Posey in the ninth inning of the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory over the Giants on Monday night, the cut-fastball specialist throwing the three-time World Series champion and 2012 National League most valuable player three straight sliders.
Posey took the first two pitches, both of them 83 mph, for strikes and waved through the third one, an 86-mph breaking ball, for the second out of the inning. Jansen then got Alex Dickerson to ground out to second to nail down his 19th save and the Dodgers’ fourth straight win.
“I don’t think I’ve seen that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said when asked whether he’d ever seen Jansen strike out a batter with three straight sliders. “I know [the slider] has been a work in progress. He continues to gain confidence in it.
“When you talk about history, you have to figure out different ways to get great hitters out, and Buster is a great hitter. It was just a great sequence, and the next time they face each other, he’ll have to figure out what he’s gonna do. That’s the fun part about the game within the game. It’s a credit to Kenley.”
Jansen is now 0-2 with a 1.42 earned-run average in this bounce-back season, with 35 strikeouts and 19 walks in 31-2/3 innings. He has been dominant in June, throwing 9-1/3 scoreless innings across 10 games, striking out eight, walking three, limiting opponents to a .129 batting average (four for 31) and recording seven saves.
But Bellinger, who made a nice running catch of Posey’s flare to shallow right-center in the fifth, retrieved the ball and fired a laser to second baseman Chris Taylor, whose tag of Tauchman for the first out was upheld by a replay review.
The ball arrived well before Tauchman, who tried to avoid the tag with a ninja-like headfirst slide, pulling his left arm in toward his body and reaching for the bag with his right hand.
Major League Baseball’s explanation said that “the replay official could not definitively determine that the batter-runner maintained contact with the base as the fielder was applying the tag.”
Jansen then retired Posey and Dickerson to end the game.
“He lives for these moments — that’s why he’s had so much success in this role,” Roberts said of Jansen, who has 331 career saves in 12 years with the Dodgers. “To finish off a game like this, I know he was excited. Packed house, gave up the single in ninth, Cody with the bobble and recover, that was a big play. It changed the momentum.
“Then, to get Buster on a breaking ball … they have so much history, so to play the cat-and-mouse game with him and to get him on spin today was great. Then he got the last out. It was a good night all the way around.”
The three pitchers who proceeded Jansen to the mound escaped harrowing jams. Starter Trevor Bauer gave up a homer to Brandon Crawford to lead off the sixth, cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 3-2, and a double to Wilmer Flores.
But he struck out Steven Duggar, retired Donovan Solano on a grounder to third and got pinch-hitter Darin Ruf to chase an 84-mph down-and-away slider, Bauer punctuating the whiff by thrusting both arms toward the upper deck and pounding his chest three times.
“It was a big situation, a one-run game, and I was able to work out of a guy-on-second, no-out jam, so I was fired up,” Bauer said. “I pointed to the Dodgers fans. They were loud, they got up in a big situation, they were cheering, so I figured I’d acknowledge them.”
The Dodgers held the Giants hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“Everyone did a good job of working out of trouble,” Bauer said. “We don’t expect to come in and have an easy night and breeze through innings. We’re prepared for good at-bats and runners on base and to work out of those jams, and we executed enough big pitches in critical situations to keep runs off the board.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.