LOS ANGELES — Justin Turner delivered another big hit for the Dodgers on Tuesday night, hitting the go-ahead home run in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the Astros to take Game 1 of the World Series, and in doing so set a pair of franchise records in the process.
The game was in the balance in the sixth inning, a 1-1 tie with Chris Taylor on first base and two outs against Houston starter Dallas Keuchel. After a called second strike that Turner disagreed with — neither side seemed particularly happy with home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi for the bulk of the game — and a pair of throws to first base, Turner crushed a pitch into the left field pavilion, giving the Dodgers a lead they would not relinquish.
“I just asked Phil where he had that pitch. He said it was a good pitcher’s pitch. I told him I thought it was a little low and off the plate. And that was it,” Turner explained. “You step out and you take a deep breath and regroup, and go back to trying to battle one of the best pitchers in the game. So you can’t gripe about it for too long or you’re going to be walking back to the dugout.”
“He really took a great swing,” manager Dave Roberts said. “Gosh, JT has had so many big hits for us this year.”
Turner this postseason is 13-for-35 (.371/.476/.714) with six walks and four home runs, driving in 14 runs, surpassing Dusty Baker’s franchise record of 13 RBI in one postseason, set in 1977.
“JT’s been picking us up all year. Another big hit for him,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “He’s our guy.”
In his postseason career, all with the Dodgers, Turner is a .362/.473/.648 hitter with 26 RBI in 27 games. He matched Duke Snider for the most RBI in Dodgers franchise history. Snider drove in his runs in 36 games, all in the World Series.
“Probably the most impressive thing about him is how good he is in the big situation,” said Taylor, who also homered. “He always seems to come through when we need him the most.”
With runners on base this postseason, Turner is 10-for-19 (.526) with three home runs and a walk. That includes 7-for-10 (.700) with two home runs and a walk with runners in scoring position.
Much has been made about the change to Turner’s swing and approach, turning around his career by embracing hitting the ball in the air. He mentioned as much after Game 1, noting the work he put in with former Mets teammate Marlon Byrd and swing guru Doug Latta.
“I was in the cage with him literally five days a week, for the entire offseason trying to nail it down and figure it out and be able to repeat the swing over and over and over again,” Turner said.
The proof is in the pudding for Turner, who has hit .303/.378/.502, a 139 OPS+, in his four years as a Dodger. It earned him a $64 million, four-year contract last winter, and in the first season of said contract he had his best year, hitting .322/.415/.530 with 21 home runs and 32 doubles.
But Clayton Kershaw, who got the win in Game 1, sees something else that has taken Turner to a new level.
“You can’t teach what he’s doing. No mechanics or anything can teach the mindset and the competitiveness, the clutchness, whatever that is,” Kershaw said. “It seems like every single night he’s in the right position to come up with a big hit.”
Rich Hill takes the mound for the Dodgers in Game 2 on Wednesday night, another 5:09 p.m. PT start. Justin Verlander, who has won all nine of his games with the Astros with a 1.23 ERA, starts for Houston.