Clint Hurdle is making Dusty Baker’s life easier

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The Pirates’ No. 4 hitter tonight, Garrett Jones, has hit .213/.254/.344 against lefties this season.

The Pirates’ No. 5 hitter tonight, Pedro Alvarez, has hit .210/277/.387 against lefties this season.

So, it was pretty much a no-brainer that Sean Marshall was coming in to face both with a man on first and one out and the Reds up by one in the eighth inning tonight. And it was no surprise that Jones popped out and Alvarez struck out in a game the Pirates went on to lose 5-3.

While the Pirates were in the thick of the NL wild card race for much of the summer, it’s always been fairly clear that they were at least a year away. For that reason, it makes sense to let Alvarez take those at-bats against tough left-handers late in games.

But that doesn’t mean Hurdle has to make it so easy. He could have broken up his two left-handers and at least given Dusty Baker a bit more to think about.

Alvarez pretty obviously wasn’t up to the task while facing Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning Monday, and while I didn’t see the at-bat tonight (and MLB.tv is being uppity and not letting me check it out), I’m guessing his duel against Marshall wasn’t much closer.

The Pirates have now lost five games in a row. They’re 2-8 for the month, leaving them 72-69 for the year. A .sub-.500 finish remains a possibility, though with four games against the Cubs and three versus Houston on the docket, they should still have a decent finish in them.

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.