As far as baseball drama, it doesn’t get much better than a walk-off postseason home run.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner provided that special moment Sunday night with a three-run walk-off shot in the ninth to give the Dodgers a 4-1 win over the Cubs and a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
It was only the second walk-off postseason home run in Dodgers history. The other, Kirk Gibson’s famous homer in the 1988 World Series, came 29 years ago to the day of Turner’s home run.
Now the NLCS heads to Wrigley Field for the next three games, and if the Cubs can’t locate their bats, this series probably won’t return to the West Coast.
Here are three takeaways from Game 2 of the NLCS:
1. Justin Turner has turned into an unlikely postseason hero for Dodgers
Postseason play can create the most unlikely heroes. Think Cardinals third baseman David Freese, the MVP of the 2011 World Series, or infielder David Eckstein, who starred in the postseason for both the 2002 Angels and 2006 Cards. Justin Turner is having that kind of playoff run for the Dodgers.
The 32-year-old third baseman made his first All-Star Game this season, and has been a valuable contributor in his four seasons in L.A., but he has taken on star status this October. He’s 9 for 21 (.429), with two home runs and 10 RBIs in five postseason games. His walk-off home run to win Game 2 Sunday will live on in Dodgers lore. But don’t forget that Turner got Los Angeles off to a good start in the postseason with a home run and five RBIs in the NLDS-opening win over the Diamondbacks. The Cubs should pitch him carefully the rest of the way.
2. The Dodgers bullpen is ridiculously good
In two games, the Dodgers bullpen has retired 24 of the 25 batters it has faced, with only Anthony Rizzo reaching base via a hit by pitch. One could argue the Cubs’ hitting slump has contributed to that, but the Dodgers’ pen has been stout all year. Closer Kenley Jansen gets most of the publicity, but overall the Dodgers had the fourth-best bullpen ERA in baseball this season (3.38 ERA). They’ve been even stingier in the postseason, with a 1.37 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19 2/3 innings.
3. What happened to Cubs’ offense?
The Cubs averaged 5.07 runs per game in the regular season, fourth-best mark in baseball, behind only the Astros, Yankees and Rockies. But their offense has been shut down in the postseason. Throw out the Cubs’ nine-run explosion in their 9-8 win against the Nationals in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, and Chicago scored only eight runs in the other four games. Now they’ve scored three runs in two games in the NLCS.
It’s not just two or three players who are slumping; the entire lineup is cold. Of the 10 Cubs with eight or more postseason at-bats, nine are hitting .222 or less; the exception, Albert Almora Jr., is at .231. Six of those batters are hitting below .200, and Javier Baez is on another level entirely, standing a hitless 0 for 19 in the postseason. This slumping lineup looks like the struggling early season Cubs instead of the team that seized control of the NL Central in the second half.
Justin Turner hits only the second postseason walk-off home run in Dodgers history, the other being Kirk Gibson’s famous shot in the 1988 World Series.
Justin Turner with the walk-off home run!
Dodgers take Game 2. pic.twitter.com/GXquV6G078
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) October 16, 2017
Dodgers at Cubs, NLCS Game 3, Tuesday, 9 p.m. (TBS) — In his first postseason start with the Dodgers, Yu Darvish pitched well but lasted only five innings against the Diamondbacks, striking out seven and giving up a pair of hits and an earned run. He’ll face Kyle Hendricks, who in two starts against the Nationals in the NLDS looked almost unhittable in one game (seven shutout innings, two hits) and dreadful in another (four earned runs in four innings).