LOS ANGELES — Justin Turner hit a walk-off three-run home run, giving the Dodgers a 4-1 win over the Cubs in Game 2 of the NLCS on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, and put the Dodgers as close as they have been to the World Series in 29 years.
Yasiel Puig walked to open the ninth inning, his third of the night, then was sacrificed to second base. Chris Taylor walked with two outs, setting the stage one out later for Turner, who crushed one over the center field wall for the game-winner.
“I’m not saying he’s David Ortiz, but I played with David, and you’re talking about big spots and coming up big. And J.T.’s that guy for us,” Dave Roberts said. “He just has that pulse where he can just kind of keep his calm and stay within the strike zone. Also just not afraid to fail and just wants to be in that spot.”
It was the first walk-off win by the Dodgers in a postseason game since Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS against the Cardinals. It was their first walk-off home run in the postseason since Kirk Gibson in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Twenty eight years is a long time to go without a World Series trip. So long that one might come to expect that no matter how good things might seem, the other shoe is about to drop.
But what if it doesn’t?
Back in February, PECOTA projections at Baseball Prospectus had the Dodgers as the best team in baseball (they weren’t alone in that regard), predicted to win 98 games. What was the most shocking was how far ahead of other teams they were, including seven more victories than the Cubs, who were coming off a 103-win season that saw them win the World Series with a ton of young talent returning.
In the end, the Dodgers won 104 games and finished with the best record in baseball, a full 12 games ahead of the Cubs.
Maybe they are just good. At the very least, they are good enough to beat the Cubs.
Welcome to the acceptance stage of the Dodgers experience, only the good kind.
The Dodgers had their problems with Jon Lester on Sunday, because Lester is very good and has a postseason track record littered with accomplishments. The Dodgers didn’t score against Lester until the fifth inning, but they made him work all night.
Just four days after throwing 55 pitches in relief, Lester needed 103 pitches to record his 14 outs on Sunday. At 4⅔ innings, this was the shortest of Lester’s 21 career postseason starts.
“There are a lot of conversations that we have as far as at-bat quality and not chasing slug,” Roberts said. “Just trying to put a good at-bat together and try to take a good swing on a good pitch. So it's a clear, consistent message, and the players are just following through.”
Lester only allowed a single run, but he walked five, one fewer than his total for his last five starts against the Dodgers. That run came in the fifth inning, a two-out single by Turner to score Charlie Culberson, who doubled.
Culberson, who also doubled in Game 1 and is filling in for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager, is just the fourth Dodgers shortstop with extra-base hits in consecutive postseason games, joining Hanley Ramirez (three straight), Seager (three) and Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese.
Rich Hill was fantastic in his five innings, setting a career high with eight strikeouts while allowing only two hits and a walk. One of those hits came in the fifth, when Addison Russell deposited a fastball into the left field seats.
Hill was pulled for a pinch hitter in the fifth, which turned this into a battle of the bullpens, a strategy for which the Dodgers are supremely prepared.
Brandon Morrow pitched the sixth and the seventh innings, needing just 18 pitches to carve up the Cubs. Josh Fields got one out in the eighth, and Tony Watson finished the frame clean, setting up Kenley Jansen for the ninth.
Jansen actually allowed someone to reach base, hitting Anthony Rizzo with one out, snapping a string of 24 straight batters retired by the Dodgers bullpen, dating back to Game 3 of the NLDS. Jansen retired his other three batters faced, with two strikeouts.
Joc Pederson, who entered on a double switch, in the eighth inning became the fourth Dodger No. 4 hitter witha sacrifice bunt in a postseason game, and the first since Ron Cey in Game 2 of the 1977 NLCS.
Game 3 particulars
Home runs: Justin Turner (2); Addison Russell (1)
WP - Kenley Jansen (1-0): 1 IP, 1 HBP, 2 strikeouts
LP - Brian Duensing (1-1): 1⅔ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 walks, 1 strikeout