Chicago Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon talked before the start of the NLDS matchup with the Washington Nationals about how his team would handle leadoff man and stolen base threat Trea Turner, who swiped seven bags in the four games he played against the defending World Series Champions this season.
“He’s really good,” Maddon said. “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 [Billy] 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.”
Turner went hitless, 0 for 4, with two Ks in the series opener on Friday night.
With Jon Lester, whose issues with holding baserunners are well-documented, starting Game 2, Maddon was asked if he expected the Nats’ shortstop to test his starter.
“I do expect a lot of aggressiveness once they get out there,” Maddon said.
“The big key is to keep them off base obviously. Turner is exceptional. They have other guys that are really good, too, but he's very, very good at that baserunning thing.
“So the best defense right there is to keep them off base to begin with. They have others, like I said, that are also very proficient. We have our methods and we will try to incorporate those, also, in the event they do get on base. It's just part of the game. Last time we didn't do so well versus them. Hopefully we'll do better this time.”
Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo talked before the start of the series against the Cubs about how important Turner is to the offense with 106.7 the FAN in D.C.’s Sports Junkies.
“He’s a huge catalyst for us,” Rizzo said last week. “We go as he goes.”
“When he’s on base consistently we’re scoring a lot of runs and it puts a lot of pressure on the other team, it not only affects what Trea Turner does on the bases, but it also affects the way other guys are being pitched with him on the bases, and he scores a lot of runs, and when he’s on in front of our potent middle of the lineup I think that we’re going to be offensively efficient, I think that we’re going to score some runs, and give our pitchers a chance to win this thing.”
“He’s a huge part of what we’re doing,” Rizzo continued. “I know the middle of the lineup just loves when he gets on base because he just causes havoc and they change kind of pitching sequences to account for him on the bases ... he can take a fastball and hit you a big home run, and the best thing for me is when he hits that ball in the gap and watching him fly around the bases is just like poetry for me. He’s fun to watch run, and he’s really a spark plug for us.”
Turner was 0 for 7 with three Ks after he went down swinging at a 2-2 sinker outside from Lester with the bases loaded and two out in the fifth inning of Game 2, and he ended the night 0 for 4 with two Ks after Carl Edwards, Jr. got him to chase a couple curveballs out of the zone in the eighth.
Dusty Baker was asked after the Nationals workouts on Sunday how important it is for the offense, which produced just one run through 16 innings against the Cubs before a big eighth on Saturday, to have Turner get on base and spark things offensively.
“Well, hey, he's a big part of our offense, big part of our team,” Baker said.
“You know, I talked to him today and yesterday, but you know, you can give them suggestions but they have got to pick it up on their own.
“You know, what is he now, 0-for-7 or 0-for-8? That's not even what you call a mini-slump. You pay more attention now during the Postseason here, and so probably the person that's the most worried is Trea because the rest of us aren't worried.
“You know every time Trea goes without getting a hit, the law of averages is on his side that he's going to get a whole bunch when they come.
“In the meantime, we're talking to him but you can kind of talk too much and put things in a guy's head and then you cease to be natural. Trea will be fine.”