After blowing saves Wednesday and Thursday against San Francisco, Kenley Jansen was asked how he kept himself right mentally.
He told the Dodgers’ television network, SportsNet LA, that he meditated.
“Breathe in and breathe out,” Jansen explained.
On Saturday night, all the Dodgers could exhale when the veteran closer sealed a 1-0 victory over Colorado.
“It’s always great to see Kenley have some success,” winning pitcher Tony Gonsolin said. “He’s been working really hard. You know, a couple flukes happen. He’s our closer. He’s a guy we trust late in a game.”
The Dodgers had lost five of six with their previous three defeats coming after blowing a late lead.
Following an All-Star-like first half, Jansen opened the second by squandering his first three save opportunities, the last two coming against first-place San Francisco.
But Jansen retired three of the four Rockies he faced in the ninth, striking out C.J. Cron to secure his 22nd save.
“Just give everything I’ve got,” Jansen told SportsNet LA. “Obviously, I got two hiccups starting the second half. Nothing I can do about it but put it behind me and stay focused.”
Jansen came into the game to cheers but only after a brief ripple of concern passed through the crowd of 42,245. He had been booed after his previous two outings at home.
Manager Dave Roberts never wavered in his public support of Jansen, insisting that he didn’t see the need for a change at closer. Roberts said he thought the positive crowd reaction aided Jansen.
“I know Kenley fed off of it,” Roberts said. “I really do believe that. He was really good tonight. To have him close out a one-run game was big for all of us.”
After retiring Charlie Blackmon on a popup and Trevor Story on a fly ball, Jansen walked Ryan McMahon. But he rebounded to dispatch of Cron on three pitches.
In his previous three appearances, Jansen allowed eight runs (all earned) on nine hits and four walks. The opposition batted .600 against him with an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.684.
“You’ve got to keep your head straight, keep your mind straight,” Jansen said. “The thing that’s going to get me over the hump this year is not my physical. It’s how strong I can be mentally.”
The game’s only run came on Austin Barnes’ homer leading off the second inning. After that swing, the Dodgers turned to Gonsolin and the bullpen. Roberts said he deployed his starting pitcher with the simplest of instructions: Throw strikes and do so for as long as you can.
Gonsolin responded with 5-1/3 shutout innings, tying his longest outing of the season.
After he departed, Alex Vesia pitched 1-1/3 innings and Joe Kelly struck out the only batter he faced. Kelly hadn’t appeared since a 16-pitch effort Tuesday against the Giants because of what Roberts described as arm soreness.
Blake Treinen then delivered a 1-2-3 eighth inning on only eight pitches. That set up Jansen, and this time he came through.
Gonsolin’s velocity had dipped in his previous two starts, prompting questions about the soundness of his arm. Roberts insisted that the right-hander was healthy.
Against the Rockies, Gonsolin’s velocity returned — he averaged nearly 95 mph on his fastball — as he struck out seven to equal another season high.
He surrendered only a first-inning double to Blackmon and a fourth-inning single to McMahon. Gonsolin walked two.
“We had to prevent runs,” Roberts said. “Tonight, the story was run prevention, and Tony, Austin and those relievers did it.”
Gonsolin’s performance came a day after David Price produced his finest start as a Dodger in an eventual 9-6, 10-inning loss to the Rockies.
Having lost Dustin May (elbow ligament) after only five starts, the Dodgers also are without Trevor Bauer and Clayton Kershaw. Bauer remains on administrative leave and Kershaw is dealing with elbow inflammation.
The contributions of Price and Gonsolin would help ease the burden on the pitching staff as the second-place Dodgers attempt to keep up with the Giants in the National League West.
“I felt good coming out of the game,” Price said Saturday. “Felt good today. ... So everything was positive.”
The 5-2/3-inning effort was his longest as a Dodger and longest since going six innings for Boston on July 24, 2019.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.