Few Dodgers batters fainted more dramatically in June than Justin Turner, who hit .209 in his first 24 games of the month with no homers and eight RBIs, but that didn’t shake manager Dave Roberts’ confidence in the veteran third baseman.
Roberts consistently pinned Turner to the middle of the order for his ability to produce in the clutch, citing Turner’s 38 RBIs, fourth-most on the team, and a .286 average with runners entering Thursday night’s goal position.
That confidence was rewarded in the opener of a four-game series against National League West rivals San Diego Padres when Turner hit two homers, including a tie two-run shot in the seventh inning, to lead the Dodgers to a 3-3 to lead. 1 win in front of a sold out crowd of 53,094 at Chavez Ravine.
Turner followed up a one-out walk on Max Muncy in the seventh by taking a 1-and-1 cut fastball from Padres ace Joe Musgrove for his 13th multi-homer game of his career and a 3-1 lead over the right midfield wall drove .
Dodgers left-hander Justin Bruihl, right-hander Evan Phillips and left-hander Alex Vesia combined for 3⅓ scoreless one-hit innings to the relief of starter Mitch White, and closer Craig Kimbrel hit two of three in a perfect ninth for his 14th. Save space.
The Dodgers and Padres had only played each other three times this season before Thursday night, but the first-seeded Dodgers never had to look too far to spot their division rivals.
The Padres (46-32) have been hot on their heels for months and are just 2½ games behind despite playing the entire season without star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., who fractured his left wrist in a motorcycle accident over the winter and is not expected back until the end of July.
“It’s remarkable,” Roberts said of San Diego’s success without Tatis. “I have a lot of respect for these guys. I think they can really serve. That is certainly something that stands out.”
Indeed, the Padres have 42 quality starts in the major leagues, including Musgrove’s seven-inning, three-run effort Thursday night and the fifth-best rotational ERA (3.49) in baseball.
San Diego gave Musgrave a 1-0 lead in the first game as Manny Machado, who had missed the last nine games with a left ankle injury, doubled to left field and doubled to right in Nomar Mazara’s RBI singles hit middle.
The Padres threatened again in the second as they loaded the bases with an out on Trent Grisham’s single, Ha-Seong Kim’s walk and CJ Abrams’ colorful single.
Grisham tagged Jurickson Profar’s flyball with middle rights, but Chris Taylor blasted a one-hop toss at 96.3 mph to the plate, and catcher Will Smith did a nice scoop-and-swipe one day to pin Grisham to to finish the inning. It was the Dodgers’ fastest-tracked outfield assist since early 2020, according to Statcast.
The Dodgers tied 1-1 in the second when Turner drove a 92-mile fastball from Musgrove over the left-center wall for a solo homer, his first homer since May 18.
White ran into more trouble in the fifth round when Profar smacked left with a one-out double and finished third on a wild pitch. But White defeated Machado with an 85 mph slider, and Bruihl came on to beat Jake Cronenworth with an 88 mph slider in the zone.
The Dodgers got some good news ahead of the game when they learned that Mookie Betts’ return schedule after breaking a right rib has been brought forward by a week to 10 days.
The right fielder did batting practice, played catch and picked up grounders at second base on Thursday. The team initially thought Betts would return just before the All-Star break. But after checking with Betts, Roberts said the dynamic leadoff man could return early next week.
“It will [dictated by] his pain tolerance,” Roberts said. “Talking to the doctors and coaches, it’s one of those things where you kind of have to deal with the discomfort, but there’s nothing that should potentially make it worse.”
Roberts said Betts won’t need a rehab stint in the minor leagues and if he returns he’ll be at the top, relegating Trea Turner to third.
The throw causes more discomfort than swinging a bat, so Betts could return at second base.
“He said on record that he doesn’t really love the designated hitter,” Roberts said. “So if there’s a way to get him in the lineup and it’s second base, we’re going to move parts. The arm slap, the short throw from the second, the potential twist on the doubles game is other than really stretching it out.”
https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-06-30/justin-turner-hits-two-home-runs-dodgers-win-padres Justin Turner hits two home runs in Dodgers’ win over Padres