He started the season as a non-roster invitee and is now the biggest redhead to hit the Dodgers since Vin Scully.
Justin Turner didn’t figure to play a significant role with the Dodgers this season. He made the team in spring training, started off platooning at second until Dee Gordon seized the spot and then got off to a slow start.
Through May 21, Turner was hitting just .218. He had not hit a home run. He had scored only four times. He was not looking a whole lot like that nifty utility player the Dodgers so badly needed.
Only look at him now. He’s hit .366 since May 21, scored 32 runs, and his game-winning two-run homer Thursday was his fourth of the season.
“That’s one of the most exciting moments of my career,” Turner said. “One of the biggest hits I’ve ever gotten, and to do it on a team that’s battling and trying to win a pennant — it’s a good feeling.”
Turner is a local product. He went to Mayfair High School in Lakewood and then to Cal State Fullerton, where he started on the 2004 College World Series champions.
He played for the Orioles and Mets before signing with the Dodgers in the off-season. He came in with a career batting average of .260.
And now he’s batting .314 and filling in at third while Juan Uribe is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
“He’s been huge,” Clayton Kershaw said. “He can play third really well, play short and second, too. The way he’s swinging the bat — I don’t know if anyone thought he’d be hitting .315 or whatever he is — but it’s really impressive.”
Never more than Thursday when he rescued Kershaw from what was shaping up as a tough, 1-0 loss with his two-run homer off Tyson Ross in the eighth. It was a lined shot, too, out to left-center.
“I knew I hit it good, but you never know, here at nighttime,” Turner said. “I don’t hit a lot of homers, so I don’t know when they go out. But I definitely saw it go over the fence and Davey [Lopes] was waiting there to give me a high-five, so that was cool. I’d never really got to high-five a first base coach on a home run.”
The four homers ties his career-high, set in 2011 with the Mets in 435 at-bats. Thus far this season, he has 220 at-bats.
None, though, carried the dramatics of Thursday's homer. He returned to the dugout to a boisterous welcome, bubble machine at the ready.
“That was awesome,” he said. “That was my first bubble experience, because all my homers before was before we had the machine. I might have a concussion; guys were pounding me on the head pretty hard.”