Andruw Jones scores winning run as Netherlands knocks Cuba out of WBC

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Everyone who woke up early this morning to watch MLB Network got to see a helluva game, as the Netherlands advanced to the semi-finals of the World Baseball Classic and knocked Cuba out of the tournament with a 7-6 walk-off win.

Facing a 6-4 deficit in the eighth inning, 23-year-old Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons smacked a two-run homer for the Netherlands that sent the game into the ninth inning tied. From there Andruw Jones reached base on a fielding error by Cuban third baseman Yulieski Gurriel and then scored the game-winning run on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Kalian Sams, a 26-year-old outfielder who spent last season playing at Double-A for the Mariners.

The victory was probably extra sweet for the Netherlands, because after they defeated Cuba for the first time in a 6-2 game last week Cuban manager Victor Mesa said: “I don’t think they’re a very good team, to be honest. I think we could’ve scored more. I think we should’ve scored four or five more runs.”

Not sure what that says about Mesa’s team, but either way Cuba and their micro-managing skipper are going home and the Netherlands are going to San Francisco for the semi-finals. They join Japan in the Final Four and await the top two teams from among the United States, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Italy.

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.