- With one swing, Justin Turner put the Dodgers in commanding position of the NLCS. Los Angeles now leads the Cubs, 2-0, as the series shifts to Chicago for at least Games 3 and 4.
And just like that, the Dodgers will take a 2–0 NLCS lead to Wrigley Field after winning 4-1 on Sunday night. This was a wild one, dominated by bullpens and tied in the bottom of the ninth, when L.A. got its first walk-off postseason home run since Kirk Gibson pumped his fist all the way home 29 years ago—to the day!—in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Here are three quick thoughts off the game.
1. Turn Two
And honestly, that seems low. Turner drove in all four Dodgers runs Sunday, the first on a bat-control single he poked through the right side and the next three on the first walk-off home run of his career.
The game was tied at 1 with one on and one out in the bottom of the ninth when Cubs manager Joe Maddon came to get reliever Brian Duensing … and inexplicably replaced him with starter John Lackey. Closer Wade Davis was warm in the bullpen and Lackey had never pitched on back-to-back days in his 15-year career, but in he came. He walked shortstop Chris Taylor on six pitches and seemed out of sync with catcher Willson Contreras, but Maddon stayed in the dugout. In stepped Turner, certainly the last person the Cubs wanted to see in that position. Lackey bounced a cutter in the dirt, then grooved a fastball.
2. Full Count
Coming into the series, one concern for Maddon was the state of his pitching staff, which was depleted from going the full five games in the NLDS—including a Game 5 in which he had used seven pitchers. The team followed that game with a cross-country flight that was interrupted when a passenger fell ill and then the pilot ran over his allotted hours, making a six-or-so-hour trip into an 11-hour one. Chicago lacks an elite bullpen even when it’s well rested, so the key for the Dodgers was to get to it as quickly as possible. Turner saw 18 pitches in his first two plate appearances in Game 1 against starter José Quintana to help drive him from the game after five with the score tied at two. Shortstop Chris Taylor went deep on the second pitch by his replacement, Hector Rondon.
The Dodgers battled again Sunday, chasing the Cubs’ Jon Lester with two out in the fifth. Carl Edwards Jr., Pedro Strop and Duensing combined to shut L.A. down for four innings, but even with an off-day Monday, it’s worth keeping an eye on their workloads. This was Duensing’s third appearance of the postseason, Strop’s fourth, and Edwards’s sixth. And that’s almost everyone Maddon trusts.
3. What a Relief
It seems like every year we watch the same series of events play out: The Dodgers win the NL West. Ace Clayton Kershaw pitches twice in the division series, the second time on short rest. Manager Dave Roberts does everything in his power to avoid using relievers not named Kenley Jansen. Eventually Kershaw shows his fatigue, Roberts has to let someone else pitch, the team books tee times for late October. So it has been a real treat for Angelenos to watch this postseason thus far—Kershaw has started once per series, both times on regular rest, and Roberts has found a bridge to Jansen that seems to work.
Acquired at the deadline, the Tonys (Cingrani and Watson) can be counted upon for outs against tough lefties. Fifth starter Kenta Maeda’s stuff plays up in short spurts and while he’s especially brutal against righthanded hitters, his experience in the rotation makes him a good choice to go multiple innings. Brandon Morrow can do just about anything. And then Jansen awaits. The Cubs are still waiting for their first hit off the Dodgers’ bullpen.