Benches empty in third inning of Game 6

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A wild Jonathan Sanchez plunked Chase Utley in the back, leading a perturbed Utley to flip the ball back to the pitcher and sparking a benches-clearing incident in the third inning of Game 6 of the NLCS.

The ball, which hit Utley just above the numbers, happened to carom and bounce into Utley’s right hand as he started to take his base with none out in the third. He casually flipped the ball back to Sanchez, with no apparent malice, but Sanchez was focused on getting another ball from the umpire and wasn’t quite sure how to take Utley’s toss.

Fortunately, no punches were thrown and no one was ejected from the game as a result of the incident. Sanchez, though, was immediately replaced by manager Bruce Bochy after the loss of composure. Jeremy Affeldt was already warming up anyway, and he was certainly ready to pitch by the time the fracas was over.

The game was tied 2-2 at the time of the incident. The Giants scored twice in the top of the third on a rally started by Sanchez’s single. Sanchez, though, was very wild to start the bottom of the third, leading to the early bullpen activity.

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.