On the ground floor of Dodger Stadium, as he walked into a room filled with fans who spent the night punching keys to vote him into the All-Star Game, Justin Turner reached for the hand of his fiancee, Kourtney Pogue. His hand was coated with sweat. He had tried to downplay his desire to be an All-Star, but he could not hide the jitters.
Turner grabbed a seat in front of a television showing the announcement of the final vote. He held his dog, Moonshine, on his lap. When he heard the news, that he had won the “Final Vote” contest with a record 20.8 million votes, Turner hugged Pogue and beamed. Behind him, the fans chanted his name.
“I definitely had butterflies,” Turner said a few hours before his team’s stirring 5-4 comeback victory to sweep the Arizona Diamondbacks. “I was overcome with happiness when I heard them say my name.”
Turner played a secondary role in Thursday’s ninth-inning rally against Arizona closer Fernando Rodney. Turner was intentionally walked moments after Corey Seager tied the score with a two-run single, and moments before Chris Taylor ended the game with a walk-off single off reliever T.J. McFarland. Rodney had walked three of the first four batters he faced, including a bases-loaded walk to Logan Forsythe, to melt down. It marked the 22nd comeback victory of the season for the Dodgers (58-29).
Before the relievers blew up, Rich Hill dueled with Arizona starter Robbie Ray. Hill struck out nine in seven innings of one-run baseball; Ray countered with 13 strikeouts in six innings of one-run ball. Hill gave up a solo homer to Lamb in the fifth. Forsythe tied it with a solo shot in the bottom of the inning. In the ninth, Rodney combusted and the Dodgers capitalized.
“It feels like we’re never out of the game,” Taylor said.
Even before the sweep occurred, the victory for Turner turned what could have been a black eye for the organization into something of a triumph. Four days after closer Kenley Jansen criticized Dodgers fans for failing to vote any members of the team into the National League’s starting lineup, the voters propelled Turner to top a field including reigning NL MVP Kris Bryant.
Turner, the 32-year-old from Long Beach, became the fifth Dodger headed to Miami next week for the Midsummer Classic. He will attend with Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Seager and Jansen. Alex Wood could join the group, as Kershaw will start Sunday against Kansas City, making him ineligible to pitch in Tuesday’s exhibition.
Of the six men, Turner traveled the most circuitous route to stardom. He was non-tendered by the Mets after 2013. A balky knee caused him to flunk a Dodgers physical in the offseason. He signed a minor league contract and earned a spot on the roster in spring training. Across the next four years, he played his way into the starting lineup, into a four-year, $64-million contract this past winter, into a role as “the glue” of the Dodgers, as manager Dave Roberts called him.
“He plays the game hard every single night,” Roberts said. “You want to do right by him.”
Turner owns a sterling resume, including a .380 batting average. But Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado won the fan vote and the players voted Lamb as the backup. The tepid performance in the fan voting prompted an outburst by Jansen over the weekend in San Diego. “It’s the Dodgers’ fans fault,” Jensen said.
The comment stung, especially for those unable to watch the team on television. Jansen’s words fueled a public-relations offensive from the organization. The marketing department reached out to the fan group Pantone 294, who staffed the “campaign center” inside the ballpark.
Help also came from the Midwest. The Dodgers teamed with the Kansas City Royals, famed for stuffing the ballot for the All-Star game in 2015, for votes through social media. Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas won the American League voting.
In the aftermath of the turnout, Jansen’s remarks were recast as a challenge, rather than criticism.
“I think Kenley caught a little bit of heat for what he said in San Diego, but he also sparked a huge mob of voters to get out there and prove to everyone that Dodger fans are the best fans in baseball, which we’ve said all along,” Turner said.
Asked if Turner owed him dinner for his efforts, Jansen demurred. He said he was happier for Turner making the team than he was for his own selection. And he credited the fan base for supporting Turner.
“I have to say I’m thankful for our fans,” Jansen said. “They showed up.”
And Turner was the beneficiary.
“I’m so appreciative for everyone, all the Dodger fans across the country and across the world who got out and voted, and helped me get to my first All-Star Game,” Turner said. “It’s something that I don’t take lightly. I’ll forever be grateful to the Los Angeles Dodgers and their fans for what they did for me this week.”