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Dodgers' Dee Gordon, Justin Turner are living the postseason dream

Dodgers' Dee Gordon, Justin Turner are living the postseason dream
Dodgers teammates Dee Gordon, left, and Justin Turner smile after scoring against the Colorado Rockies on Sept. 15. (Jack Dempsey / Associated Press)

As the champagne soaked into the carpet under his feet, Dee Gordon smiled as he reflected on how far he had come.

"My hard work, my faith, paid off," Gordon said.

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On the other side of the clubhouse, Justin Turner looked back on his own improbable journey to the National League West championship.

"This," Turner said, "is beyond my wildest dreams."

When Gordon and Turner reported to spring training, they did so with the modest ambition of earning a place on the Dodgers' $240-million roster. Not only did they make the opening-day roster, they became key parts of what turned into a 94-win team. Without them, the Dodgers might not be in position to face the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL division series.

Gordon became the everyday second baseman and an All-Star. His 64 steals led the major leagues, as did his 12 triples.

Turner batted .340 as a utilityman who played every infield position, including .419 with runners in scoring position. In a key 4-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants last week, Turner belted two home runs.

"I was floating around those bases," Turner said.

Turner knows what his home runs meant to the fan base. He grew up in Lakewood and can recall exactly where he was as a 3-year-old when Kirk Gibson hit a ninth-inning home run to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

"I was sitting on the floor, in front of the TV, in my grandma and grandpa's house when Gibby hit the homer," Turner said.

But playing for the Dodgers wasn't his dream. That was too big. His dream was to play baseball at Cal State Fullerton, where his father's best friend was an assistant coach. That coach, Rick Vanderhook, is now the head coach. As an adolescent, Turner was a batboy for the Titans.

"Fullerton was the big dream," he said. "Most kids dreamed about playing in the big leagues, I dreamed about wearing the Titan uniform."

His dream came true, then led to another dream, as he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the seventh round of the 2006 draft.

He made his major league debut with the Baltimore Orioles, to whom he was traded before the 2009 season. The next season, he was claimed off waivers by the New York Mets.

Turner was developing a reputation as a solid bench player when he was unexpectedly let go by the Mets last winter. At 29, he was out of work.

Turner sensed an opportunity with the Dodgers, who had parted ways with key reserves Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. He signed a minor league contract with them, which assured him of nothing more than a place in their spring camp.

Turner's value to the team became obvious in late May, when Juan Uribe landed on the 15-day disabled list. Turner replaced Uribe at third base and went on to hit .349 with three home runs and 14 runs batted in in 28 games while Uribe was sidelined.

His production has surprised everyone, including Manager Don Mattingly. He has seven home runs in 322 plate appearances, which is three more homers in 58 fewer plate appearances than former two-time All-Star Andre Ethier.

Gordon's production was also unexpected.

Last year he was a player without a position. The son of a former major league pitcher, Gordon didn't start playing organized baseball until he was a high school senior. The Dodgers were enamored of his speed. Thinking they could turn him into a baseball player, they gambled a fourth-round pick on him in the 2008 draft.

Gordon progressed rapidly. With then-owner Frank McCourt's financial troubles limiting the Dodgers in free agency, Gordon was made the opening-day shortstop in 2012.

It didn't go well. Gordon couldn't hit and broke his thumb in the middle of the season. While he was on the disabled list, the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins.

Gordon spent the majority of last season with triple-A Albuquerque. He was called up in September and made the Dodgers' playoff roster as a pinch-running specialist.

When the Dodgers were eliminated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series last year, General Manager Ned Colletti told Gordon to work on his versatility. Learning to play second base and center field could be his ticket to landing a place on the team, he was told.

Gordon did, playing winter ball in both the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

He went into spring training auditioning for a bench role. But when Cuban rookie Alex Guerrero looked incapable of handling the defensive demands at second base, Gordon became a candidate to start.

Gordon finished the season with a .289 average. His 64 steals were the most by a Dodger since Juan Pierre stole that many in 2007.

The Dodgers' champagne celebration last week wasn't Gordon's first; he was with the team last year when it clinched the NL West. But this felt different.

"I feel like I earned this," Gordon said. "Everything I've done this year, I feel like I earned. I feel like I was an intricate part of this."

Gordon was drenched in champagne and beer.

"I don't drink, so it's disgusting, but I like the feeling," he said.

Now, he's looking forward to another new experience: Starting in a playoff game for the first time.

"I just can't wait to play my first game," Gordon said. "I got to sit and watch. I got to watch my dad. I got to watch these guys last year. It's something special."

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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