The Los Angeles Dodgers prevailed over the Chicago Cubs by a score of 4-1 in Game 2 of the NLCS (box score) on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium. As such, L.A. now has a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-seven series.
Now for some things to know about Game 2 …
Turner came up big in a playoff game — again
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner came into Game 2 with a thumpin’ good career postseason batting line of .370/.471/.603 in 22 games/87 plate appearances. Then, with his Dodgers down 1-0 in the bottom of the fifth, he did this …
Not an authoritative blast by any means, but credit for going to other way with a Lester sinker off the plate with two outs. And that brings us to this …
Yeah, not bad company right there.
Are we burying the lede? Yeah, we are. Let’s go to the ninth and watch Turner one-up himself …
That one went 416 feet and left the bat at 103 mph. That’s the second playoff walk-off homer in Dodgers history, and it occurs 29 years to the day after Kirk Gibson hit the first one.
The Dodger bullpen is three outs from a no-hitter in this series
Through the first two games of the NLCS, Dodger starters — Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill — have combined for just 10 innings. That means the bullpen has worked a total of eight innings. Here’s how those eight innings have gone …
0 H 0 R 9 SO, 0 BB, 1 HBP
So the Dodger bullpen is three outs from throwing a cumulative no-hitter against the Cubs. The only thing keeping them from a cumulative perfect game bid in the NLDS is Kenley Jansen’s ninth-inning HBP of Anthony Rizzo in Game 2.
Hill is still being judicious with his curve
Rich Hill pitched well in Game 2, as he allowed only one run on three hits in five innings while striking out eight and walking one. Hill’s sweeping overhand curve is the pitch that helped him revive his career, and without it Hill probably isn’t a major-leaguer right now, let alone one starting an NLCS game. As Ben Lindbergh recently noted, however, Hill has gradually moved away from using his curve as much this season, instead favoring his four-seamer that doesn’t often top 90 mph.
Back in April and May, Hill was going to the curve around half the time or so, but gradually in the summer he started out swapping out breaking balls for fastballs. In Game 2, that recent approach held, as he went to the curve just 35.4 percent of the time. Granted, that’s still a high percentage relative to most pitchers, especially in this slider-heavy era, but it’s low for reborn Hill. It worked for him, too, even the homer he allowed (see below) was on a fastball. When he command that slow bender as well as Hill does, the mere threat of it does much of the work.
The Cubs are still having difficulties with runners in scoring position
Here’s this, from the early innings of Game 2 …
The Cubs were 0 for 2 with RISP on Sunday night.
Russell continues to hurt the Dodgers in the playoffs
Cubs shortstop Addison Russell slugged .591 in last season’s NLCS. That’s largely because of his big home runs against the Dodgers in Games 4 and 5 of that series. While Russell in 2017 had a somewhat disappointing season at the plate, that didn’t stop him from hitting for power against the Dodgers on Sunday night. Here he is laying into a Rich Hill fastball in the fifth …
That one left the bat at 102 mph and traveled 358 feet. For a time, it put the Cubs up in Game 2.
Bryzzo isn’t getting it done
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more imposing righty-lefty lineup combo than Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Their usual productivity, however, hasn’t transferred to the 2017 postseason. Coming into Game 2 the duo was just 9 for 49 with one homer. Then on Sunday, they combined to go 0 for 7. Needless to say, the Cubs will need more production from “Bryzzo” if they’re going to get back in this series.
Lester’s strong postseason track record continued, sort of
Chicago veteran lefty Jon Lester didn’t pitch a certifiable gem on, but while he out there he pretty well tamped down what’s a strong lineup even without Corey Seager. He worked 4 2/3 innings of one-run ball. Yes, he allowed eight baserunners over that span, but he kept runs off the board. Also, Lester was working on three-days’ rest after throwing 55 pitches in relief in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Coming into Game 2, Lester owned a career postseason ERA of 2.57 in 24 playoff games, 20 of which were starts. In matters related, Lester was named MVP of the last NLCS.
But the Dodgers got to the bullpen before Davis got a chance
Prior to Game 2, Cubs manager Joe Maddon wondered aloud whether he’d be able to get more than one inning out of Wade Davis, who was worked hard in Game 5 against the Nationals. As such, he needed some length out of Lester. Thanks in part to a discerning approach by the Dodgers at the plate, Lester, as noted above, didn’t make it five innings. That was largely owing to the fact that Dodger hitters worked Lester for 103 pitches over that span. To be sure, just 55 of those pitches were strikes, but the Dodgers weren’t biting. That’s not such an usual approach for Lester, who tends to live out of the zone and rely on swings and misses and weak contact, but the Dodgers showed enough discipline to chase him early.
As it turned out, of course, the Cubs never got to Davis. Shockingly, Cubs manager Joe Maddon tabbed John Lackey, pitching on consecutive days for the first time in his career, to work the ninth inning of a tie game that was of course vitally important to the Cubs. You saw what happened above …
The Cubs are now longshots to win the pennant again
The Cubs are of course down 2-0 in this best-of-seven series. Teams that have dropped those first two of a best-of-seven go on to lose the series 83.8 percent of the time. The Cubs, though, are headed back to Wrigley Field for Games 3 and 4 and, if necessary, 5. That confers an advantage, as you know, but it doesn’t move the needle all that much for teams in the Cubs’ straits. Teams down 0-2 but headed home lose the best-of-seven series in question 81.5 percent of the time. That’s better but not by much.
Game 3 goes down Tuesday night in Chicago.