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NLDS 2017: How will Chicago Cubs handle Washington Nationals’ base stealer Trea Turner?

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Trea Turner stole seven bases in four games against the Cubs earlier this season, then took a hit-by-pitch on the wrist... total coincidence.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Washington Nationals Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Trea Turner ran wild on the Chicago Cubs during the series with the defending World Series champs in Nationals Park in late June. Turner went 6 for 14 with four walks and seven stolen bases in the four-game series, with four of the seven steals in the second game. Turner’s four in that game combined with two by Michael A. Taylor and one by Anthony Rendon to push now-former Cubs’ catcher Miguel Montero over the edge.

Following the Nationals’ 6-1 win that night, the veteran backstop talked his way off the roster with a post game tirade about his pitcher hurting his chances of throwing base stealers out.

"It really sucked because the stolen bases go to me, and when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time," Montero told reporters in the visitor’s clubhouse in the nation’s capital.

"So it's just like, 'Yeah, OK Miggy can't throw nobody out,' but my pitcher doesn't hold anybody on. ...

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

"That's the reason why they were running left and right today because they know he was slow to the plate. Simple as that. It's a shame that it's my fault because I didn't throw anybody out."

“You have that especially when you have a guy that you can run on on the mound,” Dusty Baker said when asked about the Nationals winning with their running game against Chicago.

“And Montero isn’t throwing like he was before, earlier, so you have to take advantage of every situation that you can.”

Montero was designated for assignment the next day.

Turner, after piling up 35 stolen bases in 68 games, took a fastball to the right wrist from Pedro Strop in the series finale with the Cubbies, and suffered a fractured wrist that cost him 51 games.

He returned to the lineup in late August and stole 11 bases in the last 30 games, so the Cubs aren’t the only ones who failed to hold Turner in check.

Over 98 games, Turner stole 46 bases this season, the third-highest total in the majors, behind only the RedsBilly Hamilton (59 SB in 139 games) and Marlins’ Dee Gordon (60 in 158).

So how will Chicago approach handling Turner in the NLDS? Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon said the best approach is to keep him off the bases in the first place.

“He’s really good,” Maddon told reporters this week. “We saw that earlier in the year. Always the best method is to keep him off base. That’s the best way to corral someone like him. We’ve run into that with Hamilton in our division. There are some guys that are difference makers when they get on the basepaths like he is. So we’ll just have our game plan and at the end of the day again, you still want to be more concerned with the guy at the plate as opposed to the guy on the base too.

“I think the better baserunners split pitchers’ concentration, and you don’t want it split to the point where the hitter gains an advantage.”

It’s not just Turner either, though he stole the bulk of the Nationals’ bases.

Washington, as a team, stole the fifth-most bases in the majors, with 108 total, behind only the Texas Rangers (113), Cincinnati Reds (120), Milwaukee Brewers (128), and Los Angeles Angels (136). Is that one category in which the Nationals hold an advantage over the Cubs?

“It’s nice to have, no question,” Maddon said, after his Cubs stole 62 bases total on the season, good for the 24th-highest total in the majors.

Chicago Cubs v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

“I’ve been involved with teams that have been able to do that. It’s just a matter of how you approach it, like I said. Do you permit people like that to really alter your thinking from the pitching mound, which I prefer not having happen, and then on top of that when you have Willson [Contreras] catching it takes a little bit of the edge off, a little bit, knowing how well he can throw, so regarding controlling the running game, it’s not just that the guy is good or that he runs fast, it’s a matter of what you do on the mound, controlling your looks, your moves to first base, holding the ball — holding the ball is still probably the best method regarding controlling the running game, where a guy becomes uncomfortable, so for as much as we’re talking about [Turner], I know they’re talking about Willson also.”

Contreras threw out 23 of 84 would-be base stealers this season (27%), a significantly better mark than Montero’s 1 of 32 (3%) while he was with the Cubs.

“So if you don’t have Willson back there,” Maddon continued, “or somebody like that, great edge, great edge, but I think Willson negates that a little bit, it puts some pause in their mind.

“Now, from our pitcher’s perspective, I’ve said, I prefer them [more] worried about the hitter than the runner, but a major league pitcher still has to do some different items before he delivers the baseball that helps control that part of it, which we’ll talk about.

“At the end of the day, man, my lesson learned is that you really don’t want to negatively impact the pitcher’s thinking at the expense of a baserunner that ends in a hanging whatever, that gets put in the gap or over the wall.”