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Using Lackey lacks sense, Cubs lose

Managers continue to change tactics and modus operandi for the postseason from what they did during the regular season that was successful for them.

 

And it continues to explode in their faces.

 

They keep using starting pitchers in relief roles and time and time again it failes.

And it certainly failed Sunday night for Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon in Game Two of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

He used starting pitcher John Lackey in relief in Game One, 1 2/3 innings. He used him again Sunday night in Game Two, even though Lackey had never pitched in back-to-back games in his entire career.

Maddon brought Lackey into the ninth inning of a tie game with the winning run on second base. Lackey walked Chris Taylor and then Justin Turner crushed a three-run home run over the center field wall for a 4-1 victory and a two games to none lead for the Dodgers.

“I don’t think I’ve ever hit a walk-off home run at any level of my baseball career,” said Turner.

Turner, the third baseman who resembles Paul Bunyan with his long red hair, his scraggly red beards and his beer barrel muscles.

And it was another former Cincinnati Reds connections. Turner was drafted by the Reds in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. But before he could make the majors, the Reds traded him to Baltimore, along with Ryan Freel, for catcher Ramon Hernandez.

While Maddon fiddled with fate, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts stuck with what pushed him and the Dodgers to where they are — using the same guys out of the bullpen.

Why not? The Dodgers bullpen had retired 27 straight and 41 of the last 42 batters when LA closer Kenly Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo with a pitch with one out in the top of the ninth and the score 1-1.

No problem. Jansen struck out Willson Contreras and retired Albert Almora Jr. on a ground ball to shortstop.

The Cubs scored first when Addison Russell broke a scoreless game in the fifth inning against starter Rich Hill. From that point, the Cubs could have put their bats in the rack and packed their bags for the trip back to Chicago for Game 3.

Cubs starter Jon Lester was not sharp, walking five in 4 2/3 innings and throwing only 55 strikes out of 101 pitches.

But the Dodgers scored only one run and Turner drove that one in, too. It came in the bottom of the fifth. Charlie Culberson, filling in at shortstop for injured Corey Seager, opened the inning with a double.

Lester nearly got out of it by retiring the next two Dodgers, but Turner punched a run-scoring single to right field to tie it, 1-1.

At this point, LA manager Roberts deviated slightly from the way he managed during the season — but he didn’t bring in a starting pitcher.

Even starter Hill had given up only one run and three hits and struck out eight in five innings, using only 79 pitches, Roberts brought in his set-up guy, Brandon Morrow, usually an eighth inning piece.

Morrow, though, was brilliant. He pitched two perfect innings, using only 18 pitches.

Then Roberts brought in right handed Jose Baez and induced a fly to center. Then he brought in left hander Tony Watson to get the final two outs of the inning.

That set it up for closer Jansen for the ninth. And that took it to the bottom of the ninth.

Cubs left hander Brian Duensing started the eighth and LA put two on with one out. Duensing evaded trouble by inducing an inning-ending double play out of Austin Barnes.

Maddon sent Duensing back out for the ninth of the tie game and he walked Yasiel Puig on four pitches. Charlie Culberson bunted Puig to second, but Duensing struck out pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer.

With one out needed to close out the inning and send the game into extra innings, Maddon opted to bring in Lackey instead of closer Wade Davis or another bullpen member.

Lackey walked Chris Taylor on a full count and then Turner whacked the second pitch he saw from Lackey over the center field wall, the Dodgers 11th walkoff win this season by nine different players. Turner had done it twice.

Until Turner’s home run, the Dodgers frustrated themselves by stranding eight runners and going 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position.

The Cubs, though, couldn’t get base runners. They had only three hits so they only stranded four and were 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

And Dodgers pitchers walked only one. Cubs pitchers walked eighth, including the big one by Lackey to Taylor with two outs in the ninth that brought Turner to the plate.

“I just didn’t execute the pitch,” said Lackey. “I’ve faced Turner many times. He is a good hitter. You have to execute the pitch.”

Instead, Turner executed the Cubs.

 


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