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Justin Turner, the Dodgers’ constant October presence, is heating up at the right time

“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Austin Barnes said of Turner.

MLB: World Series-Los Angeles Dodgers at Tampa Bay Rays
“I can see the championship trophy from here.”
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Turner did the damage he needed in his first two at-bats on Friday, opening the scoring with a home run in the first inning, then extending another two-out rally with a double in the third.

That propelled the Dodgers to within two wins of a championship, with a 6-2 win over the Rays on Friday night in Game 3 of the World Series.

But it was his other three at-bats, coupled with those two extra-base hits that had Turner feeling good afterward.

“This postseason in particular hasn’t necessarily been that great for me personally. But I’ve been grinding away with our hitting guys, and trying to get good feels,” Turner said Friday night. “I’ve had a few blips once or twice a game where I felt normal, and then I’d lose it. Tonight I was able to put together five good ones.”

Turner lined out in both the sixth and ninth innings, both 98 mph off the bat. One had an expected batting average of .430, the other .420, per Baseball Savant. His other at-bat was a fifth-inning strikeout, but even then he took seven pitches, running the count full in Charlie Morton’s final frame.

It’s been part of a hot streak for Turner, who has at least one extra-base hit in six of his last seven games, putting him back in a familiar spot on the October stage.

Turner has been with the Dodgers for the last seven of their eight consecutive division titles, quite possibly the greatest minor league free agent the franchise has ever procured. He’s been a constant in the middle of the lineup throughout this run, and been one of the few Dodgers to consistently produce every fall.

Justin Turner in the postseason

2015 5 .526/.550/.842 1.392
2016 11 .286/.457/.514 0.971
2017 15 .286/.420/.536 0.956
2018 16 .299/.373/.388 0.761
2019 5 .286/.333/.667 1.000
2020 15 .232/.333/.429 0.762
Totals* 69 .293/.394/.500 0.894
*Totals include Turner’s 0-for-2 as a reserve in the 2014 NLDS.

Not every postseason series was Turner at his best, but his year-to-year performance never falls off a cliff. His worst postseason OPS in six years as the Dodgers full-time third baseman was .761 in 2018. Thanks to his last week, he’s up to .762 this season.

“I’m just happy to be in the clubhouse with him and spend some time with him,” said Mookie Betts. “I was always in the other league, watching from afar, and seeing what he does each and every day, it’s fun to be a part of.”

Playing in an era of expanded playoffs, on a team on one of the best regular season runs in the last quarter century, Turner has played more postseason games than any other Dodger in the storied history of their franchise.

Game 3 saw Turner hit his 11th postseason home run, matching Duke Snider for most in franchise history. Turner this October has moved into the Dodgers postseason top spot in runs scored and hits, and he already led in doubles, RBI, and hit by pitches. He also led in walks (33), until Friday night when eagle-eye Max Muncy passed him.

“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Austin Barnes said of Turner.

Turner as he has climbed the Dodgers October leaderboard has been asked at various times what he thinks of such accomplishments, but Turner has politely shifts all talk, just like he has with his pending free agency after the World Series, after his four-year, $64 million contract expires. His focus has remained singular pretty much since July, when summer camp opened and the season restarted.

“It’s something pretty cool that I can talk about when I’m done playing,” Turner said Friday, “but it doesn’t mean a whole lot unless we finish this thing off and win two more games.”