U.S. crushes World team in Futures Game

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When the Futures Game rosters were announced last month, the difference in the pitching staffs appeared dramatic; the U.S. was littered with big-time arms featuring first-round pedigree. The World team just didn’t match up.

So, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that the U.S. beat up on the World’s second-tier pitchers Sunday in running away with a 17-5 victory.

The World squad was able to take an early lead. Shortstop phenom Jurickson Profar (Tex) homered off Jake Odorizzi (KC) in the first, and Jae-Hoon Ha (ChC) hit a two-run blast off Gerrit Cole (Pit) in the second. Ha’s shot was a big surprise, as the defensive-minded center fielder came in with just three homers on the season. A sac fly from Oscar Taveras (StL) made it 4-0 in the top of the third.

From there, it was all U.S.A. Billy Hamilton (Cin), the fastest player in the minors, showed his wheels with a two-run triple hit over the head of Ha in center. Here’s the video. Ha misjudged the ball initially, and Hamilton seemed to think it’d be caught off the bat. If he had gone full bore from the start, he might have turned into an inside-the-park job with his speed.

The U.S. squad kept racking up singles and doubles from there before Nick Castellanos (Det) homered in the sixth to make it 15-5.

Ariel Pena (LAA) took the worst of it for the World team, giving up eight runs in one-third of an inning. Julio Rodriguez (Phi) gave up Castellanos’ homer and allowed three runs — two earned — in his innings. Chris Reed (LAD) gave up four runs — two earned — in an inning. The most impressive World team pitcher was starter Yordano Ventura (KC). He hit 100 mph a couple of times on the fast Kansas City gun and retired all three batters he faced.

The U.S pitchers weren’t exactly dominant. All seven guys to work a full inning gave up at least one hit. After Odorizzi and Cole allowed their homers, Danny Hultzen (Sea) surrendered another run in the third. Dylan Bundy (Bal), the one guy everyone wanted to see, gave up three hits in the fourth, but escaped with a scoreless inning. Taijuan Walker (Sea) looked the best of the bunch today. He allowed one hit while working a scoreless seventh. Matt Barnes (Bos) finished the game. After entering with one down and none on in the ninth, he threw two pitches and got two outs.

The offensive star was Castellanos. The third-base prospect had two singles and a walk to go along with his home run. Chris Singleton (Hou) also had three hits. Hometown hero Wil Myers (KC) played the entire game and went 2-for-4 with three RBI. Many of the Royals fans in attendance would probably like to see him step in for Jeff Francoeur after the break.

For the World team. Profar went 2-for-3 with the homer before stepping aside for Francisco Lindor (Cle). Since the World team was overloaded with shortstops, Jean Segura (LAA) played second base, his old position, and went 2-for-3. Ha ended up 2-for-2 before being replaced.

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.