Mariners hit five homers to win Cactus League opener

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The Phillies played Florida St. on Wednesday and there were three more exhibitions between Florida-based MLB teams and colleges today, but the spring season officially started later in the afternoon, with the Mariners and A’s squaring off in the Cactus League opener.

As one would assume with such noted powerhouses playing each other, there were six homers in the game, five delivered by the mighty Mariners on their way to an 8-5 victory. Michael Saunders, who could be the early season replacement for Franklin Gutierrez in center, started it off with a two-run shot off Graham Godfrey in the second. Carlos Peguero, Luis Rodriguez, Jesus Montero and Johermyn Chavez also left the yard in the game.

Utilityman Eric Sogard hit the lone homer for the A’s.

Montero was involved in a scary moment a half-inning after hitting his homer, as he went to the ground after taking a foul tip to the face. He was down for a couple of minutes and he left the game, but reports indicated that he was fine afterwards.

Montero, a catcher in the Yankees’ minor league system, will be the Mariners’ primary DH this season, but he could catch once or twice a week, too.

Also of note from the game was that Manny Ramirez hit cleanup for the A’s and went 0-for-2. And old friend Oliver Perez, launching a long shot bid to make the Mariners as a reliever, allowed one hit in a scoreless fourth inning.

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.