It has been rare this postseason for a Nationals hitter not named Anthony Rendon, the NL MVP candidate third baseman, or Juan Soto, the 20-year-old phenom and cleanup hitter, to spark offense. Entering Monday night’s win-or-go-home Game 4, Nationals hitters excluding Rendon and Soto were 12 for 72
in the series’ first three games.
That includes Turner, the shortstop and leadoff man, who was 3 for 12 before Monday, when the Nationals staved off elimination with a 6-1 victory.
And in the sixth inning, representing a crucial insurance run, Turner scored on a Rendon sacrifice fly.
Finally, the Nationals found a rally starter: Turner, who went 3 for 5 with two runs scored Monday.
“It’s my job,” Turner said afterward.
He successfully passed the baton to Manager David Martinez’s thumpers in the third inning, extending a rally for a Rendon sacrifice fly. To lead off the fifth, Turner grooved a line drive into left field for a single and scored on Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run home run. Again the first batter in the sixth, his double led to the final run that gave the Nationals bullpen extra breathing room.
Over that stretch in the middle of the game, Washington gave Los Angeles a taste of its own medicine after the Dodgers rallied in the sixth to take Game 3 on Sunday. The Nationals were able to string together hits that provided the team’s first dose of lasting offense this postseason.
That inertia at the plate is hard to stop, especially in the playoffs, said right fielder Adam Eaton, who bats behind Turner.
“You get the momentum,” he said. “It’s hard to calculate why and how, but you just know when it gets going, get on and hang on and enjoy it.”
Eaton walked in the third inning to load the bases, and although the Nationals got only one run that inning, their offense was moving. In the fifth, Eaton shoved a sacrifice bunt down the third-base line that moved Turner to second before Rendon knocked him in with a single.
“Every time [Tuner] is on base, it gives me options to bunt, hit behind runners, whatever it may be,” Eaton said. “And having Anthony [Rendon] behind me being my protection, it gives me a lot of fastballs. … It allows me to have an easier job. I’m blessed where I am. These guys are great athletes and really dynamic players. I haven’t had a chance to play with guys quite like this, so I’m happy to be here.”
Turner said it takes an entire lineup behind him to keep having smart plate appearances and putting the ball in play to string together rallies. The Nationals’ savvy at-bats early on chased Los Angles starter Rich Hill after just 2 ⅔ innings. To that point Hill had allowed two hits, four walks and one run. Then the Nationals touched up the Dodgers bullpen for eight more hits and five more runs.
“I think our lineup is able to compete one through eight and to continue to do that through this postseason has been nice,” Turner said. “I don’t think it’s just me. It’s guys like Eaton slapping the ball around the field and doing all sorts of things, but our lineup in general is a tough one to face.”
And for Washington, with its backs against the wall in a potentially decisive game, it was past time for the rest of the offense to contribute in front of Rendon and Soto. Those moments arrived Monday night, and when Rendon drove a line drive deep to center field in the sixth inning and Turner jogged home for Washington’s final run, Nationals fans stood and clapped like that kind of manufactured offense had happened all along.