V-Mart doesn't call Turner an 'RBI machine' for nothing

March 31st, 2024

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It looked like was out on the driving range, working his way through his bag.

First came the irons, a looping single into left field to put the Blue Jays on the board. Then, he reached for his three wood, roping a line drive off the top of the left-field wall with the bases loaded to bring home two more.

We all know why we go to the driving range, though: to let it rip with the big stick.

In his third trip to the plate, Turner unleashed his first home run in a Blue Jays uniform, soaring over the same paths his single and double had traveled. It all looked so calm, so intentional, so locked-in.

Coming off a season where timely hitting and power both plagued the Blue Jays at times, Turner’s performance was just so refreshing in a 9-2 win that earned Toronto a series split.

“I just try not to do too much, and understand that the pressure is on the pitcher,” Turner said. “He’s got to make good pitches, and -- ”

Suddenly Victor Martinez, who’s with the Blue Jays as a special assistant, walked past Turner and the reporters crowded around him and bellowed, “RBI MACHINE RIGHT THERE!”

“... And it helps to have Vic telling me that I’m an RBI machine,” Turner continued with a smile. “That confidence going up to the plate is always a nice plus.”

Turner came to the Blue Jays with a reputation earned over the course of 15 big league seasons. He performs in the big moments, owning a career .311 average, .396 on-base percentage and .891 OPS with runners in scoring position entering Sunday. With the bases loaded, he’s hit .333.

Even baseball lifers struggle to define clutch hitters, but there’s some magic to it. Do it for two seasons and it’s easy to write off as some favorable luck. Do it for 15+ seasons? You’re on to something.

“He keeps himself levelheaded in those moments,” said manager John Schneider. “Whether it’s with runners in scoring position, postseason or whatever it may be, it’s about having an approach and sticking to it. A lot of times, guys get a little too big. You can see what he’s trying to do every single time.”

The rest of the game seemed to follow Turner’s lead. Davis Schneider launched his first home run of the season in his first start, another encouraging sign for a club looking to unlock more power anywhere it can, and the Blue Jays managed to chip away in between the big blasts.

The Blue Jays took two underwhelming losses in the middle, but their wins to bookend this series paint the picture of an offense that could be more dynamic than the one from a year ago.

An offensive performance like this works nearly any day, but behind Kevin Gausman, it’s a lock.

Gausman was dominant for his 4 1/3 innings, his only blemish being a solo home run while striking out six. The short day (69 pitches) was all part of the plan as he builds back up from a shortened Spring Training, so this day couldn’t have gone much better for the Blue Jays.

Gausman knows Turner well from his days with the Giants and their rivalry with the Dodgers. He prefers having Turner on his own team now.

“He always killed us and killed me, personally. Never was a big fan of him, to be honest,” Gausman said, cracking a smile. “But now, he’s on my team and I love the game that he brings. I’ve always respected his game.

"He never gives away at-bats and he always has a plan up there. It was nice to see him come out today and have the day he had. He’s in his [16th] year. You don’t get there by accident. He’s a pro’s pro. There’s a lot of guys who have a huge amount of respect for him in the clubhouse.”

The first four games of a season won’t make or break a team, but they can offer up some hints.

The Blue Jays spent the offseason and much of Spring Training talking about a better team approach, hitting for more power and coming together on a simpler, more straightforward game plan. Talk is nice, but seeing it play out on the field in a game that actually matters is something else entirely.

This happened twice in the 2-2 split, and with Turner fitting into his role just as the Blue Jays envisioned, we should be seeing it more and more.