Yasiel Puig ends pitcher’s duel with walk-off homer

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Rumors of Yasiel Puig’s demise were greatly exaggerated. After lighting the baseball world on fire following his debut on June 3, Puig went into a skid, posting a .579 OPS in 16 games between July 3-23. The thought was that the league had finally caught up to him, but entering this afternoon’s series finale against the Reds, Puig had logged multiple hits in four of his previous five games and brought his OPS back up to .999.

Reds starter Tony Cingrani was magnificent, shutting the Dodgers out over seven innings of work, allowing one hit and one walk while striking out 11. As ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, it was the first time a Reds starter had gone seven, struck out at least 11, and allowed no more than one hit and one walk since Johnny Vander Meer in 1941. Not bad. However, Dodgers starter Chris Capuano was up to the task of matching Cingrani, shutting the Reds out over six and two-thirds innings. He allowed just three hits, walked none, and struck out four.

Both bullpens continued the scoreless affair into the bottom of the eleventh, when the Reds called upon 26-year-old rookie Curtis Partch. The right-hander quickly got two outs, retiring Elian Herrera on strikes (the Dodgers’ 20th of the game, a team record) and Mark Ellis on an infield pop-up, bringing up Puig who was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk to that point. On the second pitch of the at-bat, Puig drove Partch’s offering well beyond the fence in left field for the walk-off solo home run. Puig knew it was gone on contact, happily flipping his bat. After circling the bases, he slid into home plate as his teammates crowded around him.

.gifs courtesy @ChadMoriyama.

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.