LOS ANGELES — On baseball’s biggest stage, Justin Turner continued reminding the Mets what could have been.
Turner, a Dodgers hero throughout this postseason whom the Mets infamously non-tendered four years ago, hit a two-run homer to key a 3-1 victory over the Astros Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series in front of 54,253 at Dodger Stadium.
“He always seems to come through when we need him the most,” Chris Taylor said.
Taylor, the Dodgers’ leadoff man, and Turner teamed up to do that a round earlier. They were named co-MVPs in the five-game victory over the defending champion Cubs in the National League Championship Series.
They’re off to a good start trying to claim a similar prize in World Series. Taylor’s leadoff homer off Dallas Keuchel on the first pitch of the lefthander’s night gave the Dodgers, playing in their first World Series since 1988, an early lead. Turner’s two-run blast in the sixth, after a Taylor walk, made it 3-1 and were all Clayton Kershaw needed.
Kershaw allowed one run and three hits in seven innings, improving to 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA in this year’s playoffs as he puts further into the rearview mirror the somewhat unfair “can’t win in the postseason” tag. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and seven-time All-Star struck out 11, the fifth time he struck out 10 or more in postseason.
Though pleased with his outing, Kershaw gushed talking about Turner, whose blast gave him four homers this postseason and 14 RBIs, the most ever by a Dodger in a postseason.
“You can’t teach what he’s doing,” Kershaw said of the third baseman. “No mechanics or anything can teach the mindset and the competitiveness, the clutchness, whatever that is. It seems like every single night he’s in the right position to come up with a big hit. We’re going to ride him because I don’t know if there’s an easy way to get him out. He’s been unbelievable for us.”
Kershaw made only one mistake, a fastball to Alex Bregman leading off the fourth. The third baseman slammed it to leftfield for a homer that made it 1-1. That seemed to jolt Kershaw, who struck out three straight and six of the next nine batters. He retired 12 of the final 13 he faced.
Brandon Morrow took over for Kershaw in the eighth and worked a perfect inning. Kenley Jansen, whose nasty cutter helped him save 41 games and post a 1.32 ERA, struck out one in a perfect ninth.
After Taylor walked with two outs in the sixth, Turner, who struck out in his first at-bat and popped out in his second, came to the plate a tad lighter in his load.
“My first two at-bats I was swinging a little bit bigger bat, a 34 1⁄2,” Turner said. “And I got beat in a couple of times. So I [switched] back to my 33½ that I normally use, a little smaller bat. Good thing I did, because I didn’t get beat in the third time.”
Turner said the two-run shot and ensuing trot around the bases felt similar to his walk-off three-run homer in Game 2 of the NLCS.
“That was probably just as loud as it was on the walk-off homer,” Turner said. “This place was the most electric I’ve ever seen it, which it should be, the first World Series here in 29 years. Our fans are fired up. They’re pumped. The buzz around the city is crazy. And obviously we’re all excited to be able to let them enjoy this with us.”
Plenty of Dodgers legends have enjoyed it as well. Perhaps the biggest of them all pulled Turner aside in a quiet moment before Game 1.
“Sandy told me — Koufax — told me today, 162 is work, once you get to the playoffs, it’s fun,” Turner said. “And I thought that was a pretty cool way to look at it, and I agree with him a hundred percent. During the regular season it’s work, it’s a grind. Once you get onto these stages, it’s fun. And just to be in the moment and soak it in and take a step back and look around and see almost 60,000 people in Dodger Stadium on their feet going crazy, it’s pretty special.”