Catalyst Turner comes through again with slam

September 25th, 2019

WASHINGTON -- held his bat in his hand, tiptoeing up the first-base line with confidence. As he sized up a ball 102.2 mph off his bat that was drifting out into the Washington night, he saw Phillies left fielder Brad Miller circling below it.

"I was like, 'Why are you running?!'" Turner recalled, feeling doubt take over his body.

But Miller was forced to watch Turner’s ball land beyond the chain-link fence of the visitors’ bullpen, 378 feet away from home plate, cementing another marquee moment in a Nationals season full of them. This grand slam -- the Nats’ fifth of the year -- powered the club to a 6-5 National League Wild Card-clinching win over the Phillies, and it will stand out above the rest ... especially now that Turner can breathe again.

"He scared me a little bit,” Turner said of Miller’s pursuit.

Trailing 4-2 after Max Scherzer coughed up a pair of home runs to Miller, the Nationals needed a spark. In walked Turner, the hero atop the lineup who’s been the poster child for resiliency and playing through injuries. Turner’s second homer of the series -- and his fourth extra-base hit of the day across the doubleheader -- sent the 22,214 at Nationals Park into a frenzy, begging him for a curtain call.

But as Turner walked up the steps, Nationals manager Dave Martinez still wasn’t comfortable. On both sides of the ball, the Nats have learned about the fragility of a lead.

“I never said this game is ours,” Martinez said of Turner's homer, “but it made it a lot closer to being ours.”

“I’m not one of those guys I think the game is over until the game is over. That home run was incredible, it really was, but like I said, the boys have been doing it all year, and we can hear them right now,” he added, motioning to the clubhouse ruckus. “This is what they love. So let’s keep doing it.”

Anytime Turner’s name is brought up, Martinez always points to him as the catalyst in his clubhouse. It helps that his spot atop the batting order and positioning at shortstop make him the focal point, but his return from injury on May 17 lined up almost seamlessly with the run the Nats kick-started on May 24. He has only sat a combined nine innings to catch a breather in comfortable games since making his return.

"There is no rest," Turner said before Game 2.

And though he knows there’s more work to be done, when the dust settles at the end of this season, career homer No. 62 on Tuesday night might be his biggest moment.

“As soon as [Miller] gave up a little bit, we all knew what the ramifications were where we were at in the game,” Turner said. “And it was a big one."