John Lackey watches Justin Turner’s big fly go bye-bye in the ninth inning of Game 2. (AP/Matt Slocum)

Is John Lackey with two outs in the ninth really how Cubs drew it up?

SHARE Is John Lackey with two outs in the ninth really how Cubs drew it up?
SHARE Is John Lackey with two outs in the ninth really how Cubs drew it up?

LOS ANGELES — There is no right place to start with a guy who just gave up a walk-off home run with two outs in the ninth inning of a National League Championship Series game. Especially when that man is one John Derran Lackey.

Say, John, what happened on that fateful pitch to Dodgers hitting machine Justin Turner? Were you trying to keep the ball away from him? Or run it in on his hands? Because it sure caught a lot of the plate.

Uh, John?

“Yeah, I’ll talk to the pitching coach about it,” Lackey grumbled after the Cubs’ 4-1 defeat in

Game 2.

Lackey didn’t offer much in the way of illumination on a night that had to be beyond strange for the 38-year-old. Here’s a pitcher with the most career postseason starts in all of baseball, yet suddenly he has been used in relief in back-to-back games. Back-to-back playoff losses, to boot. Man, bullpen life is no joke.

How’s the team holding up?

“It’s not ideal to be down 2-0,” he said.

Why so many between-pitches conversations with catcher Willson Contreras?

“We had a little trouble getting on the same page.”

Is it harder on the pitchers when nobody’s hitting?

“Yeah, I’ll stay in my lane on that one.”

What now?

“Try to win a ballgame. It isn’t too complicated.”

A lot of sort-of answers to, frankly, a lot of sort-of questions. But then, the Cubs sort of look doomed right now. The bullpen is sort of an epic disaster, not that it’s the only problem spot with this team.

Why, Joe Maddon? Why send Lackey into a tie game with two outs in the ninth and a runner in scoring position? Isn’t that the sort of situation where we might expect to see an elite closer such as Wade Davis emerge from the bullpen?

“Because I really just needed [Davis] for the save tonight,” Maddon said. “He had limited pitches.”

Maddon made the interesting point that warming up Davis — who was taxed to the max in a two-plus-inning save Thursday night in Washington — would’ve taken an equal toll to using him in the game, and it was better to keep his arm quiet altogether unless there was no question his services would be needed. Which, um, they weren’t?

Of course, Maddon could’ve called on former closer Hector Rondon, who has lots of experience getting the call to pitch amid late-inning nuttiness.

“I’m just betting on [Lackey’s] experience right there as much as anything,” Maddon said. “I know that he went out there and tried to make the pitches that he wanted to make.”

It could’ve been a much-needed good night — no, a great night — for the bullpen. Carl Edwards Jr. was electric for 1⅓ innings. Pedro Strop put in an inning of admirable work. Brian Duensing, although he was tagged with the loss, gave the Cubs a clutch 1⅔ innings.

The bullpen was so close to being able to tell all the doubters — and there’s an army of them — to take a hike.

“We really don’t care who doubts us,” Edwards said. “They’re not doing our jobs. We’re doing it ourselves.”

Lackey clearly hasn’t done his job thus far as a reliever. Then again, it’s not all that easy to see why he would. To go from the rhythms of the starting rotation to the unpredictability of the bullpen is an extreme change, especially for someone who has started games his whole life. It would be like sticking a night-owl sports writer in an office cubicle at 8 a.m. and expecting him to hit the ground bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Or something like that.

“We’re just trying to win games,” Davis said.

The Cubs are running out of chances.

Follow me on Twitter@SLGreenberg.



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