After the first 10 games of the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are sitting pretty at 8-2, the best record in all of Major League Baseball.
It’s fair to acknowledge that the teams they played are a combined 7-19, but it’s also fair to point out that they are currently without two of their top players at the moment. Cody Bellinger is on the 10-day injured list, and Mookie Betts has been battling a sore back. The Dodgers are currently 4-1 when Betts is in the lineup, and 4-1 when he is not.
Sunday’s game was a clinic in the what the Dodgers can do to a team. Clayton Kershaw went head to head for six innings with fellow three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals. Kershaw bested him by not allowing any runs to Scherzer’s one run, only due to a ball lost in the bright California sunshine.
The difference then became the Dodgers’ bullpen throwing three shutout innings to preserve the win for Kershaw, while the Nationals bullpen allowed a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh inning. Blake Treinen bent but didn’t break, stranding a runner at third, and Corey Knebel was dominant as he has been every game so far this season.
But the real stunner of yesterday’s game was the outing by Kenley Jansen. It took him just eight pitches to retire the side, with two strikeouts and a grounder to short. His velocity was back up to 94-95, and his pitches were moving. It was the best that Jansen has looked since 2017, and makes a fan salivate wondering if he could repeat that time and again this season.
After the game, manager Dave Roberts said of Kenley, “The command, the stuff was really good. Pitching to the top part of the zone, getting ahead of guys, getting the swing and miss. Really dominant outing.”
Roberts noted that Jansen has been working with Brandon McDaniel and Connor McGuiness, both of the Dodgers’ performance staff. Jansen was seen before the game throwing against the outfield wall, seeming working on something that helped him pitch like when he was at the top of his game.
What might have helped most of all was the time off between outings. Jansen blew the save against Oakland last Wednesday, after having been a little iffy the day before. The rest certainly did work in his favor in this game.
The other unanticipated element of Sunday’s game was the contributions of Zach McKinstry. Staring in left field after starting in right for Saturday’s game, the former 33rd round pick provided all of the offense for the Dodgers. He had the bloop double that was lost in the sun to drive in the first run of the game in the second inning, and then followed it up with his first real home run, one that was actually out of the park to make the score 3-0.
McKinstry is now the team leader in RBI with 10, and also leads in slugging at .679. He has a .321 batting average, with four doubles and two homers.
“He’s a baseball player, man,” Kershaw said of McKinstry after the game. “I think that’s the best compliment you can give somebody who plays our game. He’s like the left-handed Kiké.”
Chris Taylor had this to say about him after Saturday’s game: “We’re just seeing the beginning … I don’t think this is a hot streak.”
McKinstry is definitely making the most of his time in the majors and has filled in admirably for Betts while he’s been sidelined with his back issue.
McKinstry may regress some, and Kenley may not always pitch as dominantly as he did on Sunday. But they also may not, making this loaded Dodgers team even more lethal.