LOS ANGELES (AP) – Justin Turner savored every last stride as he followed in Kirk Gibson’s famous footsteps at Dodger Stadium.
The kid from Southern California knew all about the history attached to this home run trot.
On the 29th anniversary of Gibson’s celebrated pinch-hit homer that shocked Oakland in the 1988 World Series opener, Turner added another landmark shot to Los Angeles Dodgers postseason lore.
The red-bearded slugger hit a three-run drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-1 on Sunday to take a 2-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
“One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma’s house and watching that game in ’88 and seeing Gibby hit that homer,” said Turner, who wasn’t quite 4 years old at the time. “So yeah, it feels pretty cool. I thought about doing the fist-pump around the bases, but we’ll wait until we get to the World Series for that, hopefully.”
The dominant Dodgers are two wins away after Turner drove in all four runs in Game 2 to keep Los Angeles unbeaten in the postseason.
He delivered a tying single in the fifth before sending a long shot to center field off John Lackey in the ninth. Completing the poetry of the moment, a fan wearing a blue Dodgers jersey took a few steps onto a walkway and gracefully caught the ball in his glove on the fly.
“It’s very cool, and J.T., we were talking about it in there after the game,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “Twenty-nine years to the day. It was special. Our guys feel it.”
Another generation of Dodgers fans now has its own historic homer, and these Dodgers are growing increasingly confident they can earn their first World Series appearance since 1988.
Turner got swallowed up at home plate by another pack of ecstatic teammates, just as Gibson did. Unlike Gibson, Turner spiked his batting helmet after rounding third, allowing his unruly red hair to go as wild as the crowd.
“What’s not to enjoy about it?” Turner asked. “We have an opportunity to bring a championship back to LA. It’s been a long time.”
Game 3 in the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Midseason acquisition Yu Darvish starts for the Dodgers against Kyle Hendricks.
Yasiel Puig drew his third walk of the game leading off the ninth, and Charlie Culberson bunted him to second. After losing pitcher Brian Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, Chicago manager Joe Maddon went to the bullpen for the 38-year-old Lackey, who pitched on consecutive days for the first time in his 15-year career.
Lackey got the call over All-Star closer Wade Davis, and the veteran starter walked Chris Taylor on six tense pitches. Maddon said he wanted to save Davis for a potential save on the road, and Lackey would have pitched the 10th inning as well if the Cubs did not have a lead.
“Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out,” Maddon said.
Turner stepped up and ended it with his fourth career playoff homer. After possibly taking a slight free-agent discount to stay with the Dodgers last winter, he had another solid season before excelling again in October – he is batting .377 with 22 RBIs in his postseason career.
And after a collective offensive effort drove the Dodgers to a 5-2 win in Game 1, Turner did it all in Game 2. He has 10 RBIs in the Dodgers’ five postseason games, getting five in the playoff opener against Arizona.
Addison Russell homered in the fifth for the Cubs, who are down early in this rematch of the 2016 NLCS. Chicago won that series in six games after splitting the first two.
Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen got the victory with a hitless ninth despite hitting Anthony Rizzo on the hand with a one-out pitch. That ended the Los Angeles bullpen’s impressive streak of 22 straight Cubs retired to begin the NLCS, but the Dodgers have thrown eight hitless and scoreless innings of relief in the NLCS.
Jon Lester yielded three hits and five walks while failing to get out of the fifth inning in the shortest start of his long postseason career, but the Dodgers couldn’t take advantage of a rare shaky night by the Cubs’ star left-hander.
Rich Hill struck out eight in five more impressive innings for the Dodgers, but he was pulled for pinch-hitter Curtis Granderson in the fifth in a debatable decision by Roberts.
Russell was off to a 4-for-22 start in the postseason with nine strikeouts before the slugging shortstop put a leadoff homer into the short porch in left field.
Turner evened it moments later by poking a single to right after a leadoff double by Culberson, the Dodgers’ improbably successful replacement for injured All-Star shortstop Corey Seager.
The Dodgers chased Lester with two outs in the fifth, but reliever Carl Edwards Jr. came through after several recent postseason struggles, striking out pinch-hitter Chase Utley and then pitching a strong sixth.
Lester was the co-MVP of last season’s NLCS, winning Game 5 at Dodger Stadium and yielding two runs over 13 innings in the series. He had nothing near the same success against the Dodgers’ revamped lineup in this one, issuing four walks in the first four innings and repeatedly escaping jams.
Dodgers third base coach Chris Woodward held up Turner in the third when it appeared he could have scored from first on Cody Bellinger’s double to the gap.
Javier Baez, the other co-MVP of last season’s NLCS for Chicago, got to third base in the third with one out, but also was stranded.
Cubs: Hendricks dominated Chicago’s playoff opener with seven scoreless innings against the Nationals, but yielded four runs in four innings during the team’s wild Game 5 victory in Washington. He is starting on normal rest.
Dodgers: Darvish was outstanding in Game 3 against the Diamondbacks, earning his first career postseason victory with seven strikeouts over five innings of two-hit ball. He was acquired from Texas precisely for these moments, and he starts on seven days of rest.
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