Dodgers’ bullpen gets the job done in Game 6 of NLCS – Press Enterprise

The Dodgers’ bullpen has taken its share of criticism recently. That can only mean one thing: it’s October.

Tasked with recording the final nine outs with a 3-0 lead in a do-or-die Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, the bullpen did it.

Blake Treinen allowed the Atlanta Braves’ only run in a 3-1 victory, then snuffed out a possible rally in a tense seventh inning. Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect eighth and ninth, respectively.

Walker Buehler set them up with six shutout innings. The same bullpen that had surrendered 15 earned runs in 22-2/3 innings over the first five games of the NLCS knocked ’em down.

“For me at that point in time,” Manager Dave Roberts said, “I’m just trying to shorten the game.”

Treinen set a foreboding tone. On his first pitch, the left-handed-hitting Nick Markakis squared up a belt-high cutter, lining it into right field for a triple.

The next batter, Cristian Pache, appeared fooled as he whiffed on a middle-middle cutter at 96 mph. He grounded the next pitch weakly to third base for the first out of the seventh inning. Markakis stayed put at third base.

Ronald Acuña was up next. He must have anticipated the same pitch – an inside, belt-high cutter – that Treinen threw to Markakis. His line drive to right field fell for a double, drove in the Braves’ first run, and put a runner in scoring position with one out. Freddie Freeman and Marcell Ozuna, the Braves’ most dangerous hitters in the series, were up next.

Treinen challenged Freeman with a high cutter, and the probable National League MVP swung and missed. With the count 1-and-2, Treinen dialed up another high cutter. Freeman swung and missed again, giving the Dodgers the critical second out.

Treinen attacked Ozuna with sliders. The last of them was dangerously close to belt-high, but Ozuna hit a lazy fly ball to Mookie Betts in right field to end the inning. It was the most tension the bullpen faced Saturday, and the Dodgers dodged the bullet.

Baez’s mistakes have threaded the fabric of October failures for a decade. The burly right-hander inherited two runners from Tony Gonsolin in the fifth inning of Game 2. Both runners scored, as did another, and Baez’s career postseason earned-run average swelled to 4.30.

Saturday, Baez needed 17 pitches to retire Travis d’Arnaud on a strikeout, Ozzie Albies on an infield fly, and Dansby Swanson on an easy fly ball to Betts. It was the first clean inning since Buehler retired the side in the third.

Finally, Jansen found himself in a familiar spot: a clean ninth-inning save situation. The velocity and movement of his signature pitch, the cutter, had diminished rapidly since September. It had cost him sole possession of the closer’s job. Yet Roberts trusted him enough to face Austin Riley, Markakis and pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval with a two-run lead.

“There’s been some under-the-surface numbers where (Jansen) has been really good, whether it be quality of contact, strikeouts,” Roberts said. “There have been some things in there that have been really good that just haven’t shown itself.”

The inning ended before it could go sideways. Riley swung at the first pitch, hit a line drive to left field, and Joc Pederson slid foot-first to make the catch charging in. Markakis swung at the first pitch too, flying out to Cody Bellinger in center field.