Previewing Sunday Night Baseball: Yankees at Mets

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With the Yankees and Mets less than an hour from first pitch, here’s a few things to consider:

On the bump:

Livan Hernandez (5-2, 4.05) hopes to salvage one for the Mets.
Hernandez allowed three runs — two earned — over seven innings in a
loss to the Cardinals in his last start. It was his first loss since
April 23. Hernandez has become a real workhorse for the Mets, logging
86 2/3 innings this season — second on the team. He has never beaten
the Yankees in six career starts. He took a no-decision against them on
June 12, allowing six runs over 5 1/3 innings.

Chien-Ming Wang (0-6, 11.20) is still in search of his first
victory. He threw his best start of the season last time out, holding
the Braves to three runs over five innings, striking out four while
walking just one. Considering his rough start, Wang was very effective,
throwing 42 of 62 pitches for strikes. Wang is 0-3 with a 7.27 ERA in
four starts since returning from the bullpen. Wang is 1-1 with a 4.96
ERA in two career starts against the Mets.

Back in the lineup:

– Derek Jeter, who missed the two previous games due to a severe
headache, fever and cough, is back in the lineup and will leadoff on
Sunday. Jeter is enjoying an excellent season, batting .308/.377/.451
with nine homers, 30 RBI, 47 runs scored and 17 stolen bases. He is the
all-time leader with a .385 career batting average against the Mets.

The Replace-METS:

– The injury-riddled Mets are just 9-for-87 (.103) with one home run over their last three games.

Yanks take season series:

– The Yankees are 4-1 against the Mets
this season. This is the first time they have won the season series
against the Mets since 2003.

Fantasy angle:

– Alex Rodriguez is 11-for-19 with three homers and 10 RBI against Hernandez in his career.

– David Wright is ninth in the majors with a .370 batting average this month.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.