Could this finally be the Dodgers' year?If one believes in omens, it might not get any better for Dodgers fans than Sunday night, which marked the 29th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series -- the last World Series Los Angeles
Could this finally be the Dodgers' year?
If one believes in omens, it might not get any better for Dodgers fans than Sunday night, which marked the 29th anniversary of Kirk Gibson's dramatic walk-off home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series -- the last World Series Los Angeles won.
Gibson's blast off Dennis Eckersley was also the Dodgers' last walk-off homer in postseason play ... until third baseman Justin Turner clubbed a walk-off, three-run home run off John Lackey at Dodger Stadium to give Los Angeles a 4-1 win over the Cubs and a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
:: NLCS schedule and coverage ::
Turner's dramatic blast to center gave the Dodgers serious momentum heading to Wrigley Field, and history is on their side, as well. Teams that have gained a 2-0 edge in any best-of-seven postseason series have gone on to lose that series only 13 times in 80 tries, and those teams have lost just three times in 28 tries in any best-of-seven League Championship Series dating back to 1985.
Chicago has a big mountain to climb, but remember: This is essentially the same club that rallied back from a 3-1 deficit in last year's World Series. The Cubs have the experience, and certainly the talent, to close the gap.
Before these teams square off again on the North Side of Chicago on Tuesday night, here are the facts and figures you should know from Game 2.
Red comes through again
• If there's one batter the Cubs didn't want to see come up against Lackey -- making his first appearance on no days of rest -- it was Turner. The third baseman's walk-off blast put his career postseason batting average at .377, which is the third-highest by any player in history with a minimum of 75 postseason plate appearances, behind Lou Brock (.391) and Hanley Ramirez (.380).
Turner also ranks in the top 10 all time in postseason on-base percentage (.478, second behind Lou Gehrig), slugging percentage (.636, 10th) and OPS (1.115, fourth behind Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Troy Glaus) among that same group of players with a minimum 75 postseason plate appearances.
• The Dodgers have tallied 1,628 postseason hits, but Turner's home run marked just their sixth walk-off hit in October -- and their first since Mark Loretta's RBI single in Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS against the Cardinals.
• Turner has been at his best when batting with runners in scoring position. He's 13-for-18 (.722) with RISP through 23 career postseason games, which is the highest average of any hitter with at least 15 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position, dating back to 1974, according to STATS LLC. That includes a 6-for-8 (.750) performance for Turner with RISP in five games this postseason.
• The Cubs went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position Sunday and are just 1-for-23 (.043) with RISP dating back to Game 4 of the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile. They opened the postseason 6-for-16 (.375) in such situations in Games 1-3 vs. the Nationals.
• Turner's fifth-inning RBI single came with two outs and two strikes to tie the game at 1. It was Turner's 16th career two-strike hit in the postseason since his first taste of October baseball in 2014, tying Lorenzo Cain and Kristopher Bryant for the most two-strike postseason hits of any player in that span.
They had to get to the bottom of the ninth, first
• The Dodgers' middle-inning relievers were seen as perhaps the team's biggest weakness entering the postseason, but they've been lights-out, bridging the gap to closer Kenley Jansen in this series. Los Angeles relievers retired the first 22 batters they faced in this NLCS before Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo with one out in the ninth, and 24 in a row dating back to the ninth inning of their Game 3 NLDS win against Arizona.
That streak of 22 straight batters retired by Dodgers' relievers to begin the NLCS is far and away the longest perfect streak by any team's bullpen to begin a postseason series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was 17 batters in a row retired by Rangers relievers in the 1996 ALDS.
• Brandon Morrow and Jansen have struck out 9 of the 16 batters they have faced, and allowed only one baserunner between them through the first two games of the series.
• Yasiel Puig's leadoff walk in the ninth was his third walk in Sunday's game, raising his on-base percentage to an off-the-charts .571 this postseason. Puig's OBP through his first 27 career postseason games entering 2017 was .325.
Brilliant, but brief
• Lefty starters Rich Hill and Jonathan Lester were unable to go past the fifth inning, despite each having solid one-run outings. That marked the sixth postseason game in which both starters went five innings or fewer, despite not allowing more than a run. The last instance also involved the Cubs in Game 3 of last year's World Series, when Kyle Hendricks (4 1/3 innings, 0 runs, 6 hits) and Josh Tomlin (4 2/3 innings, 0 runs, 2 hits) traded zeros for four-plus frames, but went no further.
• Lester's 4 2/3 innings marked the shortest postseason start of his career, though his one earned run allowed did lower his career postseason ERA to 2.55. The southpaw's five walks on Sunday also marked the most he'd ever issued in a postseason outing.
• Hill racked up eight strikeouts but got the hook after only five frames. That made him just the third starter in postseason history to tally at least eight strikeouts and allow no more than one run, but still last five innings or fewer. The others were Sterling Hitchcock for the Padres in Game 6 of the 1998 NLCS and Bob Welch for the Dodgers in Game 3 of the 1988 World Series.
• Hill joined Sandy Koufax (3 times), Clayton Kershaw (2 times) and Tommy John as the only Dodgers left-handed pitchers to record as many as eight strikeouts while allowing one run or less in a postseason start.
The Cubs' kids are still plenty talented
• With the game still scoreless in the fourth, Puig tried to get something going against Lester with an attempted steal of second. But 25-year old Cubs catcher Willson Contreras was having none of it. The second-year backstop rose and fired an 87.3 mph throw, and Javier Baez made another highlight-reel tag to get Puig out. That throw tied for Contreras' hardest on a caught-stealing play this season, per Statcast™, and also tied for the fifth-hardest throw by any catcher on a caught-stealing at second base in 2017.
• Addison Russell put Chicago on the board with a solo home run in the fifth, collecting his fourth career postseason dinger at the age of 23 years, 265 days. That made Russell the ninth player in history to tally as many as four postseason homers before his 24th birthday, with teammate Kyle Schwarber also on that list with five.
Russell's homer also gave him 19 career RBIs in postseason play, already vaulting him past teammate Rizzo to the top of the Cubs' all-time postseason RBI list.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.