‘That’s what we live for’: Braves’ Kenley Jansen gearing up for postseason run

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

As the postseason nears, Kenley Jansen is thinking about one thing.

“That feeling that I had in 2020,” Jansen said, “I want to feel it again.”

That season, Jansen won the World Series with the Dodgers, who eliminated the Braves before defeating the Rays. The Braves are in position to defend their title, and Jansen is their closer. He wants another ring.

ExploreDaily update: Chase for NL East, magic numbers

“There’s nothing like it,” he said of the feeling that comes with winning it all.

Jansen has received criticism for some of his nail-biting ninth innings. He has blown seven saves and has walked the tightrope other times. However, Jansen entered Sunday ranking second in baseball with 39 saves. Since his last blown save, he has allowed one run over nine innings, converting all six save opportunities.

Now 35 years old, Jansen is accustomed to baseball’s ups and downs. He rides the wave as well as anyone. If you went on social media and read reactions from Braves fans, you would think he has been terrible this season. He has struggled at times, but what reliever has not? It’s the nature of the game.

“It’s a hard game,” Jansen said. “If it’s easy, everybody would’ve done it and then we won’t talk about it, or you guys won’t write about it. It’s hard. You’ve got to understand that part. I grow from that, too, I feel like. I learn from that.”

Whenever Jansen blows a save or does not pitch well, he sits at his locker and waits for reporters after the game. He is accountable. This season, he has answered difficult questions with poise.

He is used to all of this. The life of a closer comes with blame after rough outings.

Earlier in his career, Jansen took it hard when he struggled. These days, he has perspective.

“You can’t beat yourself up about what people say about you,” Jansen said. “Those (opinions) are not you. The situation that you’re in right now, what people might think about you, that’s not you. So you got to control that. Don’t beat yourself (up), that’s what I’ve learned about it. … Stay true to myself and don’t cheat myself, work hard for it and, yeah, that’s what I do.”

The Braves’ bullpen looks strong. They have depth. Their arms offer versatility. They have shut down many teams this season.

Jansen said he doesn’t know what the club’s plan is in terms of his postseason usage, but he’ll be ready for anything. In his playoff career, he has pitched as early as the sixth inning and as late as the 13th. Postseason games can be wild. “To me, it doesn’t matter,” Jansen said of when he pitches.

You should know something about him, though.

“I want the ball in my hands when it’s the toughest time, the highest leverage,” Jansen said. “That’s what I got paid for.”

Will the Braves be able to trust him in the biggest spots in October? We’ll see. But his last few weeks have been encouraging.

Jansen enjoys every moment during the season. He tries not to take anything for granted. But the postseason comes with a different excitement.

“That’s what we live for,” he said. “That’s what we work for.”

He has pitched in the postseason a lot. He did not record the final out in 2020, though – that was teammate Julio Urias.

Jansen is ready for his first playoff run with Atlanta.

“People say I wasn’t out there for the last out,” Jansen said. “At the end of the day, we all did it and it was fun. This time, we’re going to be out there and we’re going to fight for it and we’re going to see some tough teams, and we are tough, too. May the best team win.”

The latest on Spencer Strider

Spencer Strider (oblique strain) has not yet resumed throwing. He could start throwing at some point this week, manager Brian Snitker said before Sunday’s game.

“All the rehab and everything, they’re doubling up on it from what they did the last time,” Snitker said. “Those first launches are going to be important in how he feels. He said he feels good, he’s feeling better. But he hasn’t thrown yet, so we don’t know.”

All of this added to Sunday’s stakes: It does not seem like Strider would be ready for the wild-card round, which made it even more important for the Braves to beat the Mets, win the NL East and give Strider extra rest.

Kirby Yates update

Kirby Yates, on the injured list because of elbow inflammation, threw a bullpen session Sunday. He is feeling well.

But he is a victim of bad timing. There are mere days remaining in the regular season. The roster is trimmed to 26 players for the postseason.

The Braves, Snitker said, will see how Yates feels Monday. If he feels well Monday and then again Tuesday, he will throw a simulated game at the alternate site Wednesday.

The alternate site

So, about that alternate site.

It’s back.

In Gwinnett, where the Triple-A affiliate plays, the Braves will keep position players and pitchers ready during the postseason. You never know who you might need in October.

“You keep a big mix of those guys that can help you and keep them live in case you need them,” Snitker said.

Upcoming TBAs

Bryce Elder will start Monday’s game in Miami. The Braves listed “TBA” for the final two.

This gives the Braves a chance to plan their pitching for the final two days of the regular season based on their postseason situation.