Dodgers’ Justin Turner stars in New York after all

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hit a double in the third inning to drive in Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez in Game 4 of the National League division series against the Mets.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner hit a double in the third inning to drive in Howie Kendrick and Adrian Gonzalez in Game 4 of the National League division series against the Mets.

(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

The season had been saved. Justin Turner was weary. His knee was barking. He sat stiffly at a table, his cap on backward, his trademark red beard looking particularly game-worn.

He was not at all interested in congratulating himself, or in sticking a knife in the back of his former employers. The New York Mets had let him go for nothing, sure, but that was two years ago. He had moved on, with a good bit of grace and stunning success.

He was a bit player when he played here. He returned a star, and without him the Dodgers might have been done on Tuesday. The Dodgers scored three runs. He drove in two, staking Clayton Kershaw to a three-run lead. That was manna from heaven for Kershaw, for whom the Dodgers had scored a total of three runs in his previous two playoff starts.


His next time up, the Mets showed Turner respect unimaginable two years ago; they walked him intentionally. His last time up, the New York fans showed him respect unimaginable two years ago; they booed him.

“Yeah, I appreciate it,” Turner said. He hesitated even in saying that.

A.J. Ellis, seated next to Turner, could sense that the third baseman had no interest in talking about himself, or in how the Mets discarded him. So Ellis jumped in, with a wide smile and a hint of mischief in his voice.

“We appreciate it,” Ellis said. “We’re happy they didn’t like him any more.”

The Dodgers have eight doubles in this series. Turner has four. The Mets — all of them — have four.

Turner is batting .467 in the series, with a 1.233 OPS.

In his first season as an everyday player, at 30, he is the cleanup batter for the team with the most lavish payroll in North American sports history.


“Honestly, I never thought he’d be this good of a hitter,” Kershaw said. “He’s one of the best hitters in the game. It’s really, really impressive to see what he’s been able to do since he got to us.

“We thought he’d be a great utility player.”

The anchors in the Dodgers lineup have turned out to be Adrian Gonzalez, the first overall pick in his draft, and Turner, the 204th pick in his draft.

“There’s nobody else, him and Adrian,” Ellis said. “They’re the two guys, when you get runners on base, we’re really confident in our dugout.”

The most important skill for a utility infielder is fielding and, yeah, Turner still has the leather. He gave Kershaw the lead in the third inning, and Kershaw nursed that lead into the seventh. With Kershaw, it always has been the seventh.

Kershaw was cruising. The Dodgers led by two. Yoenis Cespedes led off, and a mighty swing turned into a puny dribbler, a few feet down the third-base line. Infield single. The seventh inning, of course. Tying run coming to the plate.

Mattingly confessed to the thought racing through the mind of every Dodgers fan: “Oh, here we go.”

Foul pop. Fly ball. One out from getting out of the inning.

Wilmer Flores laced a sharp ground ball down the third-base line. Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ shortstop, had signaled to Turner that a breaking ball was coming, so Turner had edged close to the line. He dived to intercept the ball, scrambled to his feet and threw out Flores. That was Kershaw’s last batter.

Turner batted in the eighth inning. The crowd booed — not at anywhere near Chase Utley levels, but enough for him to know he had earned their respect. The “Turner sucks” chants had a half-hearted sound to them.

Turner flied out, then came out of the game. His knee had been bothering him, so much so that he had to curtail his pregame workout, and the Dodgers could live without him for the last six outs, since his spot would not come up again.

He is a slugger, you know.

He’ll play in Thursday’s winner-take-all game, no matter how sore his knee.

“It’s still on my leg,” he said, “so I’ll be good to go.”

Two years ago, the Mets told Turner to go. There would be no more baseball for him at Citi Field, at least not as a member of the home team. If there turns out to be no more baseball at Citi Field this season, he can appreciate that.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin