Justin Turner savored every last stride as he followed in Kirk Gibson’s famous footsteps at Dodger Stadium.
The red-bearded slugger 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.
Turner 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 trip to the World Series since 1988.
Turner got swallowed up at home plate by another pack of ecstatic Dodgers, 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.”
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 taking a slight free-agent discount to stay with the Dodgers last winter, he had another solid season before excelling again in October.
The All-Star third baseman is batting .377 with 22 RBIs in his postseason career. He is 13 for 18 with runners in scoring position (.722), including 6 for 8 this year.
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.
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.