Pirates beat Mets in 11, earn 55th win

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Between Pedro Alvarez’s first-inning, two-run home run and Jordy Mercer’s walk-off RBI single to center in the 11th, the Pirates couldn’t muster much offense against Mets starter Jeremy Hefner and the bullpen. Pirates starter Charlie Morton held the Mets down through five, but allowed an RBI single to David Wright in the sixth and a solo home run to Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the seventh to tie it.

Rather than use closer Bobby Parnell in the eleventh after exhausting most of their other bullpen options, manager Terry Collins decided to play “by the book” and use 23-year-old Gonzalez Germen, who was making his Major League debut. Including his work in the Minors, he had pitched once since June 29. Andrew McCutchen walked to lead off the inning, then stole second base while Alvarez struck out. Russell Martin was intentionally walked to set up a double play, but Germen struck out Gaby Sanchez swinging for the second out. On the third pitch of the last at-bat of the game, Jordy Mercer snuck a ground ball up the middle, allowing McCutchen to score from second base to seal the win.

The victory is the 55th of the season for the Pirates. As the Cardinals defeated the Cubs earlier 3-2 for their 56th win, they remain one game ahead of the Pirates in first place in the NL Central. The Pirates have a four-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for the first NL Wild Card spot.

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.