NLCS: Justin Turner redeemed as Dodgers get to key parts of Brewers bullpen in Game 2 win
The Dodgers have had good success late in the first two NLCS games
MILWAUKEE -- What stands out most about the Dodgers' dramatic comeback victory, 4-3, in Game 2 of the NLCS (tied 1-1) are two dueling storylines. First, the redemption of Justin Turner. Second, the non-Hader big bullpen arms of the Brewers have been decoded by the Dodgers.
On the Turner end, it's never happened before. As in, he had never in his entire career, regular season or postseason, struck out four times in a game. And yet, he did so in Game 1. He personally left four men on base and struck out with the tying run on third base to end the game. By no means was the loss Turner's fault, and the Dodgers obviously don't get here without him, but that was a pretty tough game from his standpoint. He even committed an error on a play he pretty much always makes look easy.
"I think it's well documented that was probably the worst game of my career offensively," Turner said after Game 2. "But I think you just shrug it off to be about baseball. We've got to go to sleep and show up and do it again today.
"Obviously I wasn't feeling good about myself last night and wasn't happy with the results, but like I said, today was a new day and another chance to go out and win a ball game."
Now that I've done the requisite piling on, with a little help from Turner himself, it's redemption time. In the top of the eighth with a runner on base and his team trailing by a run, ace (one of several) Brewers reliever Jeremy Jeffress was in facing Turner. He had never before -- there are those buzzwords again -- given up a home run on a splitter. Surely that would be a safe offering against a dangerous hitter who is due and surely pining to atone for Game 1. Nope.
"C.T. had a hell of an at-bat battling, finding a way on base to start the inning off, and looking for something to get in the air there, and got a changeup that I didn't miss," said Turner. "So that felt good.
"I was just trying to get something up, and as soon as I hit it, it felt good. I knew it was a homer, and it's cool to run around the bases and see all your teammates going crazy, jumping up and down waiting for you. That's pretty cool."
"I think it's just the everyday every at-bat, professional hitter," Cody Bellinger said, regarding Turner redeeming himself. "And it's fun to watch from the dugout every day. Like he said, you don't see many days like yesterday, and for him to come out and shrug it off and do that today is what makes him a professional hitter and something us young guys can kind of strive for."
That Turner thought the Jeffress splitter was a change doesn't sound good from Jeffress' perspective. His stuff has dwindled. Maybe he's tired? He set a career high in regular season innings pitched by more than 10.
Jeffress, by the way,as the Brewers' high-leverage relievers. At the time, I said their bullpen was never in better shape, and that's how it looked. Two games in though, the script has been flipped by the Dodgers.
Jeffress allowed two hits in one-third of an inning in Game 1 and that let in two inherited runners. In Game 2, he walked in an inherited runner and gave up the Turner home run, taking a blown save and loss in the process.
Corbin Burnes was the most important reliever heading into Game 2 with Jeffress and Knebel coming off off-nights and Josh Hader being unavailable. He closed down the sixth -- with a lineout, mind you -- but then allowed a walk and two singles before manager Craig Counsell was forced to go back to Jeffress.
Joakim Soria was bad in his one-third of an inning, leaving behind two runners that would score.
What we're left with is the thought that only Hader of this power five has been good in this series and the rest have been vulnerable to the tenacious Dodgers offense that seemed to slumber through the early innings in each of these two games. It doesn't matter when the job gets done, so long as it gets done.
Joc Pederson thinks the difference is their patience.
"I think by just being patient," Pederson said when I asked about getting to the likes of Jeffress and Knebel. "They have plus stuff and you have to wait them out and look for our pitch. I think Max Muncy's as patient a hitter as it comes, [Justin Turner] as well.
"I'm not a pitcher, so I don't know how it feels, but I'd think that going against guys who are patient, I think there's a little bit of fear that we hit home runs at a high rate. That sets a little bit of fear to get them out of the strike zone a bit, so if we can avoid swinging at the chase pitches, that sets us up for success."
Yasiel Puig also mentioned something about seeing more pitches and picking the right one. It's working, and what looked like the Brewers' best advantage is suddenly on shaky ground, or so it has appeared through Games 1 and 2.
The Brewers will get Hader back for Game 3 while the others can lick their wounds on a day off Sunday. Maybe that's all the Brewers need, but it has to be a sour feeling knowing a 2-0 lead was within six outs.
Meantime, in the other clubhouse, Justin Turner can bask in his redemption, knowing that this is two straight years he's won Game 2 of the NLCS with a home run. Last year's shot led to the Dodgers' first pennant since 1988. Will this year's pave the way for their first World Series victory since 1988? In a redemption story, that's generally the storybook route.
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