Justin Turner downs Cubs, Gives Dodgers 2-0 Lead in NLCS
Thanks to Justin Turner’s heroic 3-run walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Los Angeles Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on the Chicago Cubs in the best of seven game series. The team now head back to Wrigley Field for two games in Chicago. Demoted starter, John Lackey entered the game in the ninth inning for Cubs relief pitcher Brian Duensing, with Yasiel Puig standing on second base and two outs after a leadoff walk. Lackey proceeded to walk Chris Taylor on a full count and then faced Turner, who created a picturesque moment by crushing a 1-0 fastball dead-red into the mitt of a lunging fan in deep centerfield.
Turner has been on a tear this postseason, as he is 9 for 24, with 10 RBI’s and 2 HR’s—already almost equaling the entirety of hit counts from both 2015 and 2016 in which he had 10 hits each postseason.
Cubs manager John Maddon liked his chances with the veteran Lackey. “Two righties coming up there. I liked (Lackey) a lot on the first guy, Taylor. Once that walk occurred, all bets were off against Turner.” Ironically, Turner’s home run was the first Dodgers postseason walk-off home run since Kirk Gibson’s renowned shot in 1988, 29 years ago to the day.
As the old baseball adage goes, you’re not supposed to bring in your closer on the road unless it is a save opportunity. Given the nature of a tie ball game in the ninth and fatigue concerns, Maddon could not call on valued closer, Wade Davis—who had been the hero in Game 5 vs. the Nationals with a remarkable seven out save. Davis is said to be still recovering from that Game 5 in which he threw a season-high 44 pitches, surpassing the previous season high total of 34. Outside of Davis, Chicago has not been able to rely on the remainder of its bullpen, including standout Carl Edwards Jr., who has allowed six earned runs in 2 & 1/3 innings of work. Edwards Jr. fortunately had a solid outing in Game 2, but the Cubs are going to need to lean on him for outs.
Although it was Lackey’s inability to deliver outs when they needed him most, Maddon attributed the loss to the Cubs shockingly low .161 batting average this postseason. Chicago is a combined 0 for 30 in Games 1 and 2 against the seemingly superior Dodgers’ bullpen. A majority of Chicago’s offense has derived from its 2-3-4 hitters, the famed combination of Kris Bryant & Anthony Rizzo (“Bry-zzo”), as well as the offensive emergence of their catcher Willson Contreras. Outside of these guys, the Cubs have received little to no help from their hitting, despite a 2-run HR from Albert Almora in Game 1. It will fall on the remainder of their lineup to deliver at Wrigley if the Cubs have any chance of turning the series around.
While the series is looking grim for the Cubs, it must be acknowledged they were down 2-1 vs. the Dodgers in last year’s NLCS. A comeback is possible, but looks less and less likely given the Dodgers’ offensive prowess and seemingly superior pitching staff.