29 years ago last night, Dodger Stadium witnessed history.
That’s a moment so iconic, that you don’t even need me to describe it or recap it. It just lives on in history. And so it was perfectly appropriate that nearly three decades to the day, Justin Turner came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning of a 1-1 game, with two on, and two out.
He took a first pitch ball and then this happened.
Good night now. Dodgers 4, Cubs 1. Dodgers up 2-0 and heading to Chicago. And yes, it’s just one game and all the Dodgers did was hold home field. But the Cubs had a chance to rip it and Turner wouldn’t let them.
You think he enjoyed that one a little bit? “I’ve told this story I don’t know how many times since I’ve been a Dodger. One of my earliest baseball memories was being at my grandma’s house and watching that game and watching Gibby hit that homer. I can’t even put it into words right now. It’s incredible.”
My man nearly dropped a Gibby fist pump around the bases. I’ll say this once and you can either appreciate it now or understand it later: Justin Turner is clutch as hell. I’m not sure how many other guys in baseball I’d rather have up in that spot ahead of Turner. He’s now up to 22 postseason RBI and has 10 this year alone. Dude’s 13 for 18 with runners in scoring position for his career in the postseason. Of course he was going yard with two outs and two on last night. The only questions were: what pitch and how far the homer would go?
Oh, wait, there was one other question….
WHAT THE HELL WAS JOHN LACKEY DOING IN THE GAME?
And another one, WHERE WAS WADE DAVIS?
Remember Wade Davis? I ask, because I’m not totally sure that Cubs manager Joe Maddon does. You see, Wade Davis is the Cubs closer. He was the guy who was so brass in the clincher against the Nationals and got Bryce Harper to end the series. But he was nowhere to be found last night.
But before we get into that, how about a moment for the thought pattern that allowed the Cubs to send three straight right handed batters up to face Kenley Jansen in a tie game. The same Kenley Jansen who kills right-handed hitters to the tune of a .120 batting average.
Just brainstorming here, but maybe you throw up a lefty pinch hitter there, especially when Anthony Rizzo got on base via a hit by pitch. But Maddon didn’t do that. He rolled with the righties. Again, Joe Maddon has forgotten more about baseball than I’ll never know, but that was weird.
But not nearly as weird as what happened in the bottom of the ninth. Yasiel Puig led off the inning with a walk, advanced to second on a sacrifice. Then Kyle Farmer struck out, so now you have two outs, and a runner on second base. You could go with Wade Davis, who can’t give you any more than an inning and you’d prefer to keep him for a save situation, but at the same time, when you’re on the road, if you give up a run here, you won’t get a save situation.
But instead of going with the All-Star closer, Joe Maddon went with John Lackey. I get it. Because when you have a chance to get a guy with a grand total of three relief appearances in his career into a crucial moment in a playoff game, you do it. Especially when he’ll be pitching in back-to-back games for the first time in his career.
And the only thing better than going with a guy who never comes out of the ‘pen and is doing it on back-to-back days, is doing it with a guy who led the National League in home runs allowed. That’s a no-brainer. Get him and his 36 home runs this season and more than 300 in his career, in that game. Every damn time. You do that seven days a week and twice on Sunday. And since yesterday was Sunday, I’m guessing that Maddon would’ve done it twice yesterday if he could’ve.
And of course Lackey walked the first guy he faced. Maybe that’s a warning sign. Maybe you do something there and rip him out of the game. I know it would be a desperate move, but when you’ve got a gopher-ball specialist going up against one of the most clutch hitters in the league, it might be worth considering. But Maddon had his plan and he worked it. And Turner worked him and Lackey for a 3-run jack and a 2-0 series lead. Don’t get it twisted, the Dodgers are the better team: that’s why they’re up 2-0 and why they’re going to win this series but Joe Maddon, getting turned inside out by Dave Roberts and making some of worst managerial moves at the worst possible time, certainly isn’t helping.