Dodgers to Watch – Kenley Jansen and Zach McKinstry

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.

11 thoughts on “Dodgers to Watch – Kenley Jansen and Zach McKinstry

  1. I am sure we are all very cautious to think that Jansen is back. Jansen has been incredibly inconsistent. I am very glad he pitched well and hope he continues to do so. But Roberts needs to have a fast hook something he has not done in the past and lost games. If Kenley comes out missing his control and or velocity & movement on his cutter he should be pulled immediately.
    Knebel has been incredible. Treinen has had some rough spots as far as allowing hits but has persevered. Like to see Gonzalez more than two pitches. Z Maz is a baseball player. he hits to all fields and will hit to the left if you shift on him.

    1. Fast hook no longer possible with 3 hitter rule. You can get in a lot of trouble with 3 hitters. Rule 1. Do not use him in back to back days. Rule 2. Never use him with less than a 3 run lead. Rule 3. Do not bring him in with no outs and a couple of guys on base. I really like McKinstry. At least what I have seen so far. He is an old school type player in a kids body.

      1. I forget about the 3 batter rule. But with Jansen, if he is walking guys or not hitting the catcher’s target I would immediately start someone up in the bullpen to pitch to batter #4!
        I agree completely with your other Rules for Jansen!
        Z-Mac has an infectious enthusiasm. Fun to see. Plus he is getting his bat on the ball.

      2. I think the smart thing is to warm someone up as soon as Jansen enters the game. Once he has walked on and given up a hit, it is damn near too late. Remember what happened in that fiasco during game 4 of the World Series.

  2. Damn Spectrum changed their lineup again, so the Dodger game tonight is not on my Roku. And it is blacked out on MLB.TV until two hours after it is over. They do this once in a while, I will lose the station for a week or so, then it comes back. Leaving for California next Tuesday, so won’t have to worry about watching the games for a while. My sis gets them on her set.

    1. Safe travels Bear, hoping your sister is well. Do you get any of the Sportsnet pre or post-game on your Roku? I pay for MLB and unlike many other team stations that play the pre or post-game shows, I cannot get them on MLB. I am able to designate that I receive the Dodger broadcast usually with Hershisier and Davis but would love to see post-game with Nomar, Ned, and others. Anyone, have any idea how I can get the Sportsnet post-game? I live in Tucson. Time Warner and Dodgers are missing a revenue stream. I would gladly pay for the post-game show and I am sure other LA expatriates would also.

      1. Nope, do not get pre or post game shows. Just the game itself. They have done that since the beginning. I really dislike the black out rules too. I am over 100 miles from Denver, and watching a totally different team. Sis is fine, still now working since her knee surgery over 2 years ago. She is thinking about retiring. She has 25 years in with LA County, so she can do it if she wants.

      2. Talk about black-out rules! I get blacked out for San Diego and of course, AZ Diamondback games Grrr. How do they figure San Diego is local to Tucson? I suggest they try to walk there LOL…
        Glad sis is well.

      3. I live near Scranton, PA, and I’m blacked out from NY and Philly games. I can get both NY channels on Directv but I cannot watch Philly games. I also have to watch Pittsburgh games on their feed, and they are 5 1/2 hours away

      4. Wow, you really get hammered with the blackout rules. Do they use a dartboard?
        I watch AZ Diamondback games on the Diamondback channel and oh man are they homers! The color guy Brenly is absolutely horrible. I mute the video so I do not have to listen to them.
        I understand the Diamondbacks but the Padres??

      5. I agree, Brenley is awful. I think Hawaii has it the worst, every west coast team claims them as their territory

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