Miguel Cabrera blasts walk-off home run as Tigers defeat the Royals

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It was, as baseball endings go, about as predictable as they come. Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 5-5. He was 1-for-4 to that point with an RBI single. Entering the night with a .450 on-base percentage, simply reaching with a single or a walk would have sufficed with Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez waiting in line. But Cabrera, as he has done so often over his career and especially lately, took matters into his own hands. Ahead in the count 3-1, Cabrera blasted Royals reliever Aaron Crow’s 96 MPH fastball over the right field fence for a walk-off home run, his 39th long ball of the season.

It was a back-and-forth game all night long, with the Tigers going up 3-0 after two, then the Royals tying the game at three apiece in the fourth, and then with both teams pecking away at each other throughout the rest of the game for a run at a time. Royals starter Wade Davis could not escape the fourth, while the Tigers bullpen could not hold the fort down after starter Doug Fister exited after six innings.

As Orioles first baseman did not homer tonight, Cabrera now trails him by just five home runs, 44-39. Cabrera leads in RBI at 117-113, and in batting average, .358 to Mike Trout’s .331. Cabrera may still win a second consecutive Triple Crown.

With the win, the Tigers bolster their lead over the third-place Royals in the AL Central to 7.5 games.

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.