Dan's Dugout: Turner Leads Dynamic Dodgers • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Turner Leads Dynamic Dodgers

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FLUSHING – Justin Turner is the latest Met who got away.

Like Nolan Ryan before him, the red-bearded third baseman has jumped from journeyman to superstar since switching from the East Coast to the West.

While the New York Mets play Musical Players at the hot corner, Turner has catapulted to the head of the class. He even started the All-Star Game for the National League over Colorado slugger Nolan Arenado, who hit three consecutive home runs Wednesday.

Turner doesn’t deliver the same power but his stats stand head-and-shoulders over everyone else who plays his position.

As play began Wednesday, he led the league with a .370 batting average, .464 on-base percentage, .440 average against lefthanded pitching, and .435 average in day games. His 16-game hitting streak in April was duplicated only by Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who did that twice this season.

A 5-11, 205-pound righthanded hitter, Turner bounced around early in his career. He was drafted by the Reds in 2006, traded to the Orioles, waived to the Mets, and finally joined the Dodgers as a free agent who signed just before 2014 spring training.

Will Justin Turner win the NL batting crown?

Will Justin Turner win the NL batting crown?

His ability to play three infield spots prompted the signing before Turner’s booming bat mandated that the Dodgers find him a regular position.

Now he’s the key member of a lineup that also includes rookie powerhouse Cody Bellinger, the league leader in slugging (.635) and the owner of more home runs (26) than anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton.

Other than Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy, no one in the league is harder to fan than Turner. He puts the ball in play – usually with great success.

Clayton Kershaws fourth Cy Young is a given for 2017 Credit: Frank Hyatt/Latino Sports

Clayton Kershaws fourth Cy Young is a given for 2017
Credit: Frank Hyatt/Latino Sports

The result is a powerful offense that complements a pitching staff led by lefthanders Clayton Kershaw (15-2) and Alex Wood (11-0) backed by closer Kenley Jansen (24 saves). All three were 2017 All-Stars.

No wonder the Dodgers went into Wednesday’s action with a best-in-baseball record of 65-29, .691 winning percentage, and 11-game winning streak. The fading Arizona Diamondbacks, defeated in eight of their last ten, were not even within hailing distance: 10½ games back.

The Turner-led Dodgers led both leagues in winning percentage, making some observers wonder whether this team is better than the Brooklyn clubs that reached the World Series seven times from 1947-56. Those clubs also had plenty of pop, with Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, and Roy Campanella the key contributors.

And how about the speed-and-pitching Dodgers of Los Angeles vintage? Hall of Fame pitchers Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax kept rivals close while Maury Wills and Willie Davis were stealing just enough runs to win.

The Brooklyn Dodgers used power to win seven NL pennants

The Brooklyn Dodgers used power to win seven NL pennants

While the earlier Dodgers did not to have to worry about playoffs that preceded the World Series, the current club is just as hungry. It hasn’t reached the final round since 1988, the year Kirk Gibson hit the Dodger version of “the shot heard ‘round the world.”

Kershaw, for one, does not want to be listed among the handful of Hall of Famers who never played in a World Series. He’ll probably win his fourth Cy Young Award this fall but it would be a pyrrhic victory without a ring to go with it.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Sources say Bartolo Colon’s quest to match Juan Marichal’s 243 wins, most by a Dominican, will end Monday if he flubs his next start for the Twins against the Dodgers . . .

The Chicago White Sox, who now lead the majors with 10 prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100, called up their best by promoting Yoan Moncada, a 6-2, 220-pound second baseman who hits from both sides . . .

The major reason Minnesota is so much better in the standings is its greater improved defense . . .

Don Mattingly wonders what's next in Miami

Don Mattingly wonders what’s next in Miami

If the Miami Marlins are sold to a group other than Derek Jeter’s, the job of manager Don Mattingly might be in jeopardy . . .

Major League Baseball, always on the lookout for new revenue streams, plans a Nicknames Weekend where uniform shirts will be adorned with player nicknames – at least those that pass muster with family-oriented MLB.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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