Posted: Monday, October 16, 2017 – 11:16 AM
Justin Turner hit a three-run homer with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 4-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs Sunday evening at Dodger Stadium, taking a two games to none lead in the National League Championship Series.
Since the league championship series was expanded to a best-of-seven series in 1985, only three of the 28 teams that lost the first two games have come back to win the series — the 1985 Kansas City Royals, 1985 St. Louis Cardinals and 2004 Boston Red Sox, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
The is the second consecutive season the Dodgers have been within two victories of their first World Series berth since 1988. They had a 2-1 lead over the Cubs in last year’s NLCS, then lost the next three games.
The series will resume Tuesday at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
Reliever Brian Duensing walked Yasiel Puig on four pitches to begin the bottom of the ninth. Puig moved to second on Charlie Culberson’s sacrifice bunt. After Kyle Farmer struck out for the second out, John Lackey relieved Duensing.
Lackey walked the first batter he faced, Chris Taylor, on a full count, then allowed Turner’s home run on a 1-0 pitch.
“I hit a ball pretty good to center earlier in the game, and (Albert) Almora’s an unbelievable center fielder,” Turner said. “He’s been taking hits away from us every time we play him. So I was just watching him hoping he wasn’t going to catch it. When it did end up going over the fence, obviously I was fairly excited.”
Turner’s homer came on the 29th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s pinch-hit home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
“One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma’s house and watching that game and watching Gibby hit that homer,” said Turner, who was a month and eight days away from turning 4 years old at the time.
The home runs by Gibson and Turner are the only postseason walkoff home runs in Dodger postseason history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Kenley Jansen, the last of five Dodger pitchers, was credited with the victory, the first of his career in the postseason. Jansen pitched a hitless ninth, striking out two batters before a capacity crowd announced at 54,479. Duensing, the fourth of five Chicago pitchers, was charged with the loss.
The Dodgers limited the Cubs to three hits, none after Jon Lester’s single with two outs in fifth.
Chicago has been held to three runs or less in six of its seven postseason games, including both against the Dodgers.
“We just have to become more offensive,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said.
Lester, Chicago’s starting pitcher, was replaced with two outs in the fifth and runners on first and second.
“We hung with him as long as we could,” Maddon said. “That’s part of the issue there. If we had gotten Jonny deeper into that game, then the bullpen usage could be different. (When) you’re pressed with these other guys sooner … it makes the end of the game tougher.”
The Cubs opened the scoring when Addison Russell homered leading off the fifth.
The Dodgers tied the score in the bottom of the fifth. Culberson, starting at shortstop for the second consecutive game in place of the injured Corey Seager, doubled, moved to third one out later on Taylor’s ground out and scored on Turner’s single.
The Dodgers threatened to take the lead in eighth.
Cody Bellinger led off with an infield hit when Duensing dropped a throw from first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Bellinger moved to second on Joc Pederson’s sacrifice bunt. Logan Forsythe was intentionally walked. Austin Barnes ended the inning by grounding into a double play.
The Dodger bullpen’s streak of retiring 22 consecutive batters in the series was ended when Rizzo was hit in the right hand by a pitch by Jansen with one out in the ninth. Jansen then struck out Willson Contreras and induced Almora Jr. to ground out to end the inning.
“They’re just executing pitches and they’re ready when called upon and they’re competing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of his bullpen. “Those guys know exactly what they want to do, and they’re going out there and executing.”