Justin Turner an unsung hero for Dodgers in playoffs

first_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Turner hit eight home runs in four years for the Titans. He did hit .355 as a senior, but the run producers were guys like Danny Dorn, Sergio Pedroza and Kurt Suzuki.“He looks bigger and stronger to me,” Horton said. “He’s picked up a leg kick and he’s learned about leverage. But even with us, he would face the best pitchers and figure out a way to hit something hard over the first baseman’s head.“We went to Omaha (for the College World Series) three of the four years he was with us. That’s no coincidence. The team gravitated to Red, which we still call him. His father was a baseball coach and Red was as smart as any player I’ve been around. And yet he probably had only one tool that you would call major league, a great pair of hands. We called him Velcro Hands. He’s still got those.”Turner broke them out in a tight seventh-inning spot Tuesday. At third base, he smothered a two-out hot shot by Wilmer Flores, with a man on first.Then came the eighth, which had the most jaded Dodgers fans reaching for a bag to fit their heads.Clayton Kershaw had suffocated the Mets for seven innings and had only thrown 94 pitches. He had also kicked off the Dodgers’ three-run rally in the third with a base hit off Steven Matz’s high changeup.“I was just trying to be annoying in that situation, honestly,” Kershaw said.“It was the one pitch Steven would probably want back,” Collins said.But because Kershaw was working with three days’ rest, he came out and Chris Hatcher came in to pitch the eighth.A walk to the Mets’ Curtis Granderson with two out was the signal for closer Kenley Jansen, who had pitched once since Oct. 3. Jansen walked David Wright before he retired Daniel Murphy, who had homered off Kershaw earlier.Had something gone haywire, one can assume manager Don Mattingly could have handed in his Dodger Stadium ID badge before the plane left New York.Instead, Zack Greinke will finally get to pitch a series-winning game for the Dodgers, although Jacob deGrom, the hairy heir to Tom Seaver’s mantle, will be working for the Mets.The one shadow on that field might be the condition of Turner’s knee. He left the game early and Mattingly said there was “swelling” involved, but Turner said, “It’s still on my leg, so I’ll be fine.”Turner’s breakthrough season was 2011, with the Mets. At one point he had RBIs in seven consecutive games.“I guess you’ve got to thank the Mets for bringing Marlon Byrd here,” Turner said. “I started hitting with him, working with his hitting guy. I was 29 years old and it’s a little scary to change the way you’ve done things your whole life. I’m pretty thankful I’ve trusted it and went with it.”“I faced him in (minor-league) Low-A when he was with Cincinnati,” Kershaw said. “He was a tough out then. But honestly I didn’t think he’d become this type of hitter. He’s one of the best in the game.”If Turner is the best hitter in the next game, the Dodgers move up, as will the value of all those Fullerton lineup cards. NEW YORK >> Nobody even blinks anymore when Justin Turner hits fourth for the Dodgers. Not even George Horton, who coached him at Cal State Fullerton.“He never batted fourth for us,” said Horton, now the Oregon coach. “Or third, either.”With a beard as orange as his Titan colors, Turner has become as recognizable as anybody on the highest-paid team in baseball history.If the Dodgers have anything for which to thank the New York Mets, it’s him. Turner has shown his gratitude with line drives, all over Dodger Stadium and CitiField in this National League Division Series.center_img His double down the left-field line Tuesday night gave L.A. a 3-0 lead on the way to the 3-1 victory that sets up a tasty Game 5 at home on Thursday.• PHOTOS: Kershaw masterpiece forces game 5Turner is 7 for 15 with only two strikeouts in this series. The Mets even intentionally walked him in the fifth inning.Without the support of Mets manager Terry Collins and then-coach Ken Oberkfell, one doesn’t know where Turner would be. But guys who can catch, throw and think have a way of landing. Now he hits, too.Turner led L.A. in slugging and on-base percentage, was second in RBIs and tied for third with 16 home runs. Those numbers were fantasies when he was hopping from Cincinnati to Baltimore to the Mets. Or when he was at Fullerton, for that matter.last_img read more

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