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Peter Abraham | On Baseball

Once cast off, Justin Turner continues to be a clutch performer for the Dodgers

Justin Turner connected for a solo home run to open the scoring in the Dodgers' Game 3 victory Friday night.
Justin Turner connected for a solo home run to open the scoring in the Dodgers' Game 3 victory Friday night.Tom Pennington/Getty

ARLINGTON, Texas — It has been common during the World Series to see Mookie Betts and Justin Turner standing together in the dugout deep in conversation or laughing about something that just happened on the field.

Turner is one of the longest-tenured Dodgers, this being his seventh season in Los Angeles, while Betts joined the team in February. But they share many of the same baseball sensibilities and leadership qualities.

“I’m happy to be in the clubhouse with him and spend some time with him,” Betts said. “I was always in the other league watching from afar and just seeing what he does each and every day, it’s fun to be a part of.”

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If not for a decision made in 2014, Turner and Betts would have been teammates in Boston.

The Red Sox offered Turner a minor-league contract following the 2013 season when he became a free agent after being released by the Mets. Former general manager Ben Cherington was intrigued with his potential and the Sox needed a third baseman at the time.

Turner was leaning to the Sox over the Minnesota Twins before the Dodgers made their offer. As Turner told the Globe’s Alex Speier a few years ago, he felt more comfortable in the National League and decided to sign with Los Angeles.

Turner revamped his swing and has since hit .302 with a .886 OPS and 28.7 WAR, putting him among the elite players at his position.

Had the Red Sox benefited from that level of performance, they would have avoided the debacle of signing free agent Pablo Sandoval and could have used that money more wisely.

Take that even further — and sure, this is fantasy baseball — maybe Cherington would have settled into the job and built the roster in such a way that would have led to the Sox being able to retain Betts.

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Instead, the Dodgers stepped in and have reaped the benefits. Turner was 2 for 5 with a home run and a double and two runs scored in a 6-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 3 on Friday night.

Turner made history early in Game 4 Saturday night, becoming the first player to homer in the first inning of back-to-back World Series games.

With Betts hitting first and Turner third, the Dodgers averaged 5.8 runs in their first 15 playoff games. Turner scored 13 runs and Betts 12 in those contests.

“It’s been great getting a chance to play with him,” Betts said. “He means so much to what we do as a team.”

Justin Turner delivered a double off the Rays' Charlie Morton in the third inning Friday night.
Justin Turner delivered a double off the Rays' Charlie Morton in the third inning Friday night.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

Turner has been one of the most productive players in Dodgers postseason history, posting an .894 OPS with 18 doubles, 11 home runs, and 40 RBIs in 69 games.

Turner’s home run on Friday matched Hall of Famer Duke Snider for the most in postseason play by a Dodger. Snider appeared in only 36 postseason games but it still demonstrates how valuable Turner has been.

“It means I’ve had the opportunity to play on a lot of really good baseball teams,” Turner said. “We’ve played deep in October and I’ve had a lot of [at-bats]. It’s pretty cool that I’ll be able to talk about that when I’m done playing. But it doesn’t mean a whole lot until we finish this thing off and we win some more games.”

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The Dodgers have thrived in Major League Baseball’s Texas bubble, the forced closeness helping keep them focused. Betts and Turner were among the players who attended a low-key celebration at the team hotel after the National League Championship Series.

“We were trying to celebrate but everyone’s mind went back to baseball,” Turner said. “We understand the opportunity that’s in front of us.”

Turner will be a free agent after the Series and turns 36 in November. He’s performing well enough to merit a short-term deal but the Dodgers could fill the spot with a younger, less-expensive player like Edwin Rios.

Before trading for Betts, the Dodgers pursued the idea of signing Anthony Rendon to play third base and using Turner at second base or in a super-utility role.

But Rendon signed with the Los Angeles Angels, saying he preferred the quieter atmosphere of Orange County. Turner stayed at third base and had an .860 OPS over 42 games in the regular season.

His approach suggests continued success.

“I think it’s just preparation and repetition and not being afraid to make adjustments from pitch to pitch [and] AB to AB,” Turner said. "Just knowing what’s right and what doesn’t feel right and then being able to switch gears.

“I’ve changed a lot of stuff. I’ve made adjustments throughout this entire postseason.”


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.