SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale breaks down the Dodgers’ walk-off win in Game 2 and sizes up the ALCS going to the Bronx.
USA TODAY Sports
LOS ANGELES — Breaking down Game 2 of the NL Championship Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium:
Dodgers 4, Cubs 1: Dodgers lead the series, 2-0.
The game: Justin Turner’s walk-off three-run homer off John Lackey in the bottom of the ninth broke a 1-1 tie to end a closely fought Game 2 in Los Angeles.
Turner’s home run came on the 29th anniversary of the Dodgers’ last walk-off postseason home run – Kirk Gibson’s legendary blast off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers are two wins away from returning to the Series for the first time since that championship season.
Veteran lefties Rich Hill and Jon Lester took very different routes to very similar results through the first five innings. Hill looked sharp, using his trademark curveball to induce ugly swings and weak contact from the struggling Cubs’ lineup. He allowed a home run to Addison Russell to open the fifth, but finished the inning strong and left the game after five innings of three-hit, one-run ball with eight strikeouts and one walk.
Lester was far shakier, yielding a slew of hard-hit balls that happened to find Cubs’ gloves and walking five batters — matching his regular-season high — and striking out only two in 4 2/3 innings of work. But Lester managed to work his way out of multiple jams in the contest and left with the score tied at 1-1 in the fifth.
A Cubs bullpen that has looked shaky for much of the postseason saw much more encouraging results on Sunday, when Carl Edwards Jr. relieved Lester and struck out three of four batters he faced in 1 1/3 perfect innings. Pedro Strop followed Edwards with a scoreless inning on his own. Lefty Brian Duensing worked into and out of a jam in the eighth.
On the Dodgers’ side, Brandon Morrow tossed two spotless frames in relief of Hill before righty Josh Fields and lefty Tony Watson combined for a perfect eighth.
Man of the moment: Turner, obviously. After John Lackey, working in relief, looked flummoxed trying to get on the same page with catcher Willson Contreras during Chris Taylor’s walk, Turner jumped all over a 1-0 fastball and drove it out to center field to end the game.
Manager’s special: When the Dodgers left shortstop Corey Seager off their NLCS roster due to a back injury, Dave Roberts turned not to Enrique Hernandez or Chris Taylor — both of whom spent time at short for the Dodgers this season — but to journeyman Charlie Culberson. Culberson, who had only two hits in 13 at-bats in the regular season, rewarded his manager’s faith on Sunday by ripping a double off Lester and scoring Los Angeles’ first run. He also laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Yasiel Puig to second base in the bottom of the ninth.
Needing a mulligan: With the score tied in the bottom of the ninth, Cubs manager Joe Maddon turned to Duensing for a second inning, then brought in John Lackey instead of closer Wade Davis with the game on the line.
Maddon said after the game that Davis was only good for one inning, and he’d prefer it come once the Cubs grabbed a lead and Davis could lock down a save.
What you missed on TV: Handsome actor Rob Lowe took the field to introduce the game with Vin Scully’s famous call, “It’s time for Dodger baseball.” But Lowe punctuated his appearance by calling out Bill Murray, one of the world’s most visible (and most awesome) Cubs fans.
State of the series: The clubs take a day off on Monday before the series moves to Chicago for Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Tuesday at 9:01 p.m. ET. Yu Darvish will start for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs.
Gallery: Best of the 2017 LCS