And That Happened: Thursday’s scores and highlights

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Athletics 4, Mariners 1:  As you would expect, the A’s and M’s were all about the home runs today. All the game’s runs were scored on bombs, in fact, though they gave us their de riguer 0-0 tie through six innings.

Three of the four dingers came in the seventh, with Justin Smoak going deep in the top of the seventh for Seattle and then Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick going back-to-back in the bottom of the inning. Cespedes’ was a two-run shot, coming on the second straight hanging breaking ball Shawn Kelley put up in his eyes.  I’m still a provisional Cespediphile, but I won’t go full-bore into things until I see him go deep off something other than slow hanging junk.

As for the pitching, Bartolo Colon gets the win, making like it was ten years ago or something. He went eight innings, striking out six and allowing only three hits.  Jason Vargas was good too, going six and a third. His one run allowed was an inherited runner Kelley allowed in on the Cespedes blast.

And thus endeth the Japan opener. Now back to your regularly scheduled spring training, at least for one more week.

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.