Yankees come back on Blue Jays, AL East remains deadlocked

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After the Orioles closed out the Red Sox 6-3 to finish a three-game sweep Sunday, the Yankees completed their comeback on the Blue Jays, winning 9-6 to preserve the tie atop the AL East.

They say I can’t focus on the positive. Let’s give it a whirl:

Yankees – Definitely a great day for the offense after a sluggish start. The slumping Alex Rodriguez went 2-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. The first of those runs came when he hustled home on a wild pitch. Robinson Cano stayed hot, going 3-for-5 with two doubles to finish the four game series with 10 hits. He had 15 hits during the seven-game road trip, raising his average to .306.

Blue Jays – Henderson Alvarez turned in another successful start against the Yankees, allowing two runs in six innings. He pitched seven innings of three-run ball at Yankee Stadium 11 days ago. He ended up striking out 17 over 18 2/3 innings in his final three starts, an encouraging sign if there ever was one. He was at 62 strikeouts in 169 1/3 innings through 28 starts.

Orioles – This team just never lets up. Nate McLouth, J.J. Hardy and Chris Davis all homered today. Jim Thome had two hits and two RBI, and it’s looking more likely that he can be a key contributor in the postseason. Joe Saunders improved to 3-3 with a 3.63 ERA in seven starts for Baltimore, putting him in a position to start a game in the ALDS should the club advance.

Red Sox – The loss clinched a spot in the bottom 10 of the major league standings, meaning they won’t lose their first-round pick if they sign a top free agent this winter. They’ll have a top-10 pick for the first time since 1993 (when they got Trot Nixon seventh overall) and just the second time since 1967.

See… good news for everyone!

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.