MILWAUKEE — Justin Turner, the former Mets bit player who has blossomed into a full-fledged postseason hero for the Dodgers, did it again Saturday night.
Turner's two-run homer in the eighth inning gave Los Angeles its first and only lead of Game 2 of the NLCS, just enough for the Dodgers to record a 4-3 victory and pull even with the Brewers at one win apiece in the best-of-seven series.
The Brewers had won 12 straight games dating to Sept. 23.
Turner finished 2-for-4 a night after going 0-for-5 with an error and four strikeouts, including one to end the game with the tying run on third. He called it “probably the worst game of my career offensively” but tried to not let it bother him by the time he woke up Saturday.
“I was just trying to elevate, get something in the air,” Turner said. “As soon as I hit it, it felt good. I knew it was a homer, and it's cool to run around the bases and see all your teammates going crazy, jumping up and down waiting for you. That's pretty cool.”
Said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: “It takes a special athlete to have a night like he had [Friday] night and to show up the next day in a big spot and want to have the bat in your hand. And Justin is that guy.”
This is only the latest episode of Turner’s growing playoff legend, which includes a walk-off home run in Game 2 of last year’s NLCS and a .439 OBP. That’s sixth-best among hitters with at least 75 postseason plate appearances. Those better than Turner: Lou Gehrig (.483), Babe Ruth (.470), Hanley Ramirez (.450), Carl Yastrzemski (.447) and Gene Woodling (.442).
Roberts called Turner “the glue for our club.”
“If you're talking about the grind, the tough conversations, the identity of our ballclub, he's probably the face,” Roberts said. “He personifies everything that I believe in as a baseball player, as a professional.”
Turner’s blow was part of a larger bullpen collapse for the Brewers, who led by three runs heading into the late innings and entered the series planning to rely heavily on their relievers, just as they have done all season.
Corbin Burnes (RBI single by Cody Bellinger) and Jeremy Jeffress (bases-loaded walk to Austin Barnes) combined to allow two runs in the seventh, and Jeffress allowed the homer in the eighth. That turned Wade Miley’s 5 2/3 scoreless innings into a footnote.
What happened on the bases-loaded walk?
“He just got lucky,” Jeffress said.
And what about on Turner’s 104.7-mph no-doubter to left?
“He got lucky,” Jeffress said.
Jeffress has given up 11 hits and four runs in 4 2/3 innings (7.73 ERA) across five playoff games. After pitching in a career-high 76 2/3 innings — while posting a 1.29 ERA and, at age 30, becoming an All-Star for the first time — Jeffress said he feels fine.
“It’s the nature of the game,” he said. “I can’t strike everybody out. I can’t make everybody hit a ground ball. I am human. Right now I feel great. You have to make pitches in big counts, and better results will happen.”
Jeffress isn’t the only one having trouble. Through two games, Milwaukee relievers have allowed eight runs in 10 1/3 innings. (Milwaukee starters: one run in 7 2/3 innings.)
“It can't get any closer after two games; right?” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It's been two hard-fought games, two one-run games, tying run on base in scoring position to finish each game. So they've been about as close as they can be. So we're looking forward to the next chapter.”