LOS ANGELES -- After four businesslike wins to begin what the Los Angeles Dodgers hope will be their first championship run in 29 years, the habitues of Hollywood finally needed a hero to plaster on their marquee.
They got one on Sunday, and, as with all great Hollywood heroes, the backstory is pretty good.
The hero in question would be Justin Turner, who hammered a John Lackey pitch over the center-field fence for a three-run, walk-off homer with two outs in the ninth, giving the Dodgers a 4-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday and a 2-0 lead in the National League Championship Series.
The backstory is this: The blast was just the second walk-off homer in Dodgers postseason history, and you probably remember the other one -- or at least have seen the highlights about 1,000 times. It was Kirk Gibson's pinch-hit blast to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series against Oakland.
Sunday's game marked the 29th anniversary of that iconic play, which sparked the Dodgers to their last World Series win. The Dodgers are really hoping that bit of history repeats itself.
"It's, what did you say, 29 years to the day?" Dodgers manager Dave Roberts asked rhetorically, adding that he was looking for Turner to replicate Gibson's famous, fist-pumping action as he rounded the bases. "It was special. Our guys feel it. We feel it.
"The Cubs, that's a very good ballclub. Those guys fight every pitch, and there is a reason that they're the world champions. So we feel good with where we're at, and we're going to enjoy tonight."
On top of everything, Turner says the Gibson home run stands out in his earliest memories of being a young Dodgers fan growing up in Southern California.
"I've told this story I don't know how many times since I've been a Dodger," Turner said. "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."
Turner's homer, the Dodgers' first walk-off homer of the season, should finally shine a bright, national light on a postseason résumé that has even his manager comparing him to some lofty predecessors.
"I'm not saying he's David Ortiz, but I played with David, and you're talking about big spots and coming up big," Roberts said. "And J.T.'s that guy for us. He just has that pulse where he can just kind of keep his calm and stay within the strike zone, just not afraid to fail and just wants to be in that spot."
For Turner, the walk-off homer was his first -- regular season or postseason -- and was the 50th walk-off homer in MLB playoff history. That Turner came through on such a big stage is really no surprise. He now has 22 career postseason RBIs and 10 in five playoff games this season. He also has 13 hits in 18 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position, and his .722 batting average is the all-time high among players with at least 10 postseason at-bats with runners in scoring position.
"What's not to enjoy about it?" Turner said. "We have an opportunity to bring a championship back to L.A., and, like I said, it's been a long time. So every day we get to step out on the field and play this game that we all love, and we've all put our entire lives into, it's something that I don't think any of us take for granted."
Turner's home run is the headliner -- game-winning home runs always are, especially in October. But what the Dodgers repeatedly call their "pass the baton" approach had everything to do with setting the stage for Turner's star turn.
Yasiel Puig began the winning rally with a leadoff walk against Brian Duensing, his third free pass of the game. Puig went to second on Charlie Culberson's sacrifice but was stuck there after pinch hitter Kyle Farmer struck out. Then, Cubs manager Joe Maddon went to a familiar name in an unfamiliar role -- longtime starter John Lackey, whom Chris Taylor worked for a walk.
"I wanted to see C.T. finish it," Turner said of Taylor. "I thought he was going to get the big hit. But that's the way our offense has been all year. It's been about putting together tough [at-bats] and passing the baton and getting to the next guy, and tonight it was just my turn."
The Dodgers drew nine walks in the game, maintaining their approach even late, when it became apparent that one big hit might take the contest. L.A. saw 174 pitches in the game. The Cubs saw 118, and you can make the argument that their at-bat quality -- a term Roberts loves to use -- deteriorated as the game progressed.
For L.A., it's the result of months and months, even years, of drilling in an organizational mantra on a daily basis and waiting for that message to resonate when you most need it to.
"There are a lot of conversations that we have as far as at-bat quality and not chasing slug," Roberts said. "Just trying to put a good at-bat together and try to take a good swing on a good pitch. So it's a clear, consistent message, and the players are just following through."
The grinding, disciplined approach set the stage for Turner, who turned around a Lackey fastball on the second pitch he saw. Turner drove in all four Dodger runs.
"Once that walk occurred, all bets were off against Turner," Maddon said. "Nobody is a really great matchup against Turner, so it just did not work out."
Rich Hill was masterful for the most part over five innings, during which he allowed just three hits and one run. Hill's eight strikeouts were a postseason career high, but he made one big mistake that the Cubs capitalized on, a grooved fastball that Addison Russell hooked inside the left-field foul pole for the game's first run.
Hill, like everyone else, was thrilled that Turner was the one who stepped to the plate with the game on the line and, especially, that he chose to re-sign with the Dodgers when he was a sought-after free agent last winter.
"He's been incredible," Hill said. "He's been one of the best players on the team. For me, personally, him coming back here, I was excited to see that he was signing back. He steps up every single time. It's incredible to see and I couldn't be happier for him."
While Hill needed just 79 pitches to traverse his five innings, the Dodgers waited out postseason ace Jon Lester, not doing great damage but making him work for his outs. Lester walked five, a playoff high for him, and was done after two outs in the fifth with 103 pitches on his ticker.
The second inning was a perfect example of the Dodgers' game plan against Lester. They didn't swing until his 10th pitch of the inning, during which he didn't allow a hit but walked two. It wasn't a highlight-reel sequence, but it helped create the footage that was recorded in the ninth.
The Dodgers scratched out a run in the fifth to tie the contest and get Hill off the hook. That set up a battle of the bullpens that, given recent trends, would seem to tilt heavily in the Dodgers' favor.
Indeed, Brandon Morrow came on for Hill and mowed through the Cubs over two perfect innings, throwing just 18 pitches in the process. Josh Fields and Tony Watson were just as effective and efficient in shorter stints.
"Those guys know exactly what they want to do, and they're going out there and executing," Roberts said.
By the time Jansen came on for the ninth, the Cubs' drought against the L.A. bullpen had stretched to 0-for-21 during the NLCS. This time, however, the Cubs' bullpen was matching its counterpart zero for zero, and, when Jansen took over, the game remained deadlocked.
Jansen struck out Kris Bryant to begin his outing, his fifth straight punchout to start this LCS, making the Dodgers' bullpen
22-for-22 in retiring Cubs in the series. However, Jansen plunked Anthony Rizzo, ending the out streak and giving the Cubs their first baserunner since the fifth inning.
All told, going back to the NLDS, L.A. relievers retired 24 straight batters -- the longest such streak in postseason history.
"The thing is we all care about each other," Jansen said. "It's not about that one guy or this. We all are here helping each other out to get better every day. That's the whole time it happened since spring training, we've been doing that."
By the time the doors to the Dodgers' clubhouse were opened to the media after the game, the bedlam inside had subsided, but there were still a lot of smiles and a lot of back-slapping. Ace lefty Clayton Kershaw was beaming as he strode past the media, and in the efficient manner he usually has, he pretty much summed up the evening.
"That was really cool," he said.
As the Dodgers and Cubs head to Chicago for Tuesday's Game 3, Los Angeles will be riding the momentum of a nice bit of historical serendipity. And along with that comes this: The last time the Dodgers led a seven-game playoff series two games to none? It was the 1988 World Series.