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Dodgers’ Justin Turner a head-turner as co-MVP of NLCS

Via Chicago Tribune

Justin Turner was hacking away in an alumni game for Cal State-Fullerton after the 2013 season, uncertain of his baseball future, when he caught the eye of Dodgers bench coach Tim Wallach.

The Mets had just released Turner so he was a player without a team, much like he was three years earlier when the Orioles designated him for assignment.

But on Wallach’s hunch, the Dodgers signed Turner to a minor-league contract.

The rest has been postseason history for the third baseman who was deemed worthy of a demotion to the minor leagues four times during his three very abbreviated big-league seasons — twice by the Orioles and twice more by the Mets.

The redhead from California, the kid who grew up a Dodgers fan, then turned into a modern-day Mr. October, with outstanding postseason numbers. He was named the National League Championship Series co-MVP along with teammate Chris Taylor after the Dodgers eliminated the Cubs on Thursday.

“I’m elated,” Turner said. “I can’t say enough.”

Going into Thursday, the 2017 All-Star was batting .385 with two home runs, six RBIs, five walks and a 1.226 OPS in the NLCS. He was 14-for-19 (.737 average) with two doubles, a triple, two home runs and 20 RBIs with runners in scoring position in his postseason career. For good measure, he hit .462 with a home run, five RBIs and a 1.226 OPS against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS.

In the Dodgers’ 11-1 victory over the Cubs on Thursday night he went 1-for-5 with an RBI and a run scored.

“He just has that pulse where he can keep his calm and stay within the strike zone,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Also, he’s not afraid to fail; just wants to be in that spot.”

From his grandmother’s house, Turner watched Kirk Gibson limp to the plate, then around the bases, after he hit a walkoff home run against A’s Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

Twenty-nine years later to the day, Turner hit the second walkoff home run in Dodgers postseason history, a three-run job in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium that gave his team a 4-1 victory and 2-0 series lead.

“That’s something down the road, hopefully many, many years from now, I’ll get to tell stories about,” Turner said after Game 2.

Turner was getting his now-famous red hair cut before closer Kenley Jansen’s wedding when the two had a conversation about staying with the Dodgers. Both were free agents. Both signed on the same day — Turner for four years, $64 million.

“I told him on the dance floor, I said, ‘Hey, I’m coming back.’ And I don’t think I talked to him again the rest of the night,” Turner said.

 



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