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Turner carving place among Dodgers' legends

Third baseman performing at an exceptional level over past 3 postseasons
MLB.com @kengurnick

LOS ANGELES -- When they compare your home run to Kirk Gibson's and write your name alongside Duke Snider's in the franchise record books, and then you hit a decisive homer in Game 1 of your club's first World Series in 29 years, you are the stuff of legends.

You are Justin Turner, non-tendered by the Mets in 2013, signed as an afterthought to a Minor League contract. With that renovated swing that has made him a feared slugger, the Dodgers' All-Star third baseman and heart of the clubhouse reaffirmed his heroic status Tuesday night with a game-changing two-run homer in a 3-1 win over the Astros in the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

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LOS ANGELES -- When they compare your home run to Kirk Gibson's and write your name alongside Duke Snider's in the franchise record books, and then you hit a decisive homer in Game 1 of your club's first World Series in 29 years, you are the stuff of legends.

You are Justin Turner, non-tendered by the Mets in 2013, signed as an afterthought to a Minor League contract. With that renovated swing that has made him a feared slugger, the Dodgers' All-Star third baseman and heart of the clubhouse reaffirmed his heroic status Tuesday night with a game-changing two-run homer in a 3-1 win over the Astros in the World Series presented by YouTube TV.

Full Game Coverage

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"Sandy [Koufax] told me today, '162 [games] is work; once you get to the playoffs, it's fun,'" said Turner. "I thought that was a pretty cool way to look at it."

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The 32-year-old Turner has talked before about walking the hallway on the clubhouse level, through the franchise Hall of Fame, where the achievements of legends like Koufax and Snider and Gibson are on display. Turner, already honored as the National League Championship Series co-MVP, is now among them.

With two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the tiebreaking blast off Dallas Keuchel carried through triple-digit heat just far enough to be a home run and gave Turner a franchise-record 14 RBIs in this postseason, breaking Dusty Baker's 1977 record. He has 26 RBIs in his postseason career, tying Snider's franchise record. And Turner's four homers are tied for second in a single postseason for the Dodgers with Snider, Steve Garvey, Pedro Guerrero, Manny Ramirez and Carl Crawford.

Turner's .363 postseason batting average is tied for fifth all time among players with at least 75 plate appearances, trailing Hall of Famer Lou Brock (.391), Hanley Ramirez (.380), Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski (.369) and Hall of Famer Paul Molitor (.368). He has reached base safely in all nine games this postseason, and 24 of his past 25 postseason games since Oct. 9, 2015.

Banged up in the NLCS, Turner switched bats after his first two plate appearances in Game 1 -- a strikeout and popout in foul territory.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Turner on his go-ahead homer in win

"My first two at-bats I was swinging a little bit bigger bat, a 34 1/2 [ounces]. And I got beat in a couple of times," Turner said. "So I'm going to switch back to my 33 1/2 that I normally use, a little smaller bat. Good thing I did, because I didn't get beat the third time."

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Turner on switching bats before home run

Just before the blast, home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi called a strike that swung the count in Keuchel's favor at 1-2 instead of in Turner's favor at 2-1. Turner disagreed, but he didn't lose his focus.

"I just asked Phil where he had that pitch. He said it was a good pitcher's pitch. I told him I thought it was a little low and off the plate. And that was it," said Turner. "You step out and you take a deep breath and regroup, and go back to trying to battle one of the best pitchers in the game. So you can't gripe about it for too long or you're going to be walking back to the dugout."

Turner said the heat might have helped the ball carry into the pavilion.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Turner's unlikely homer

"I knew I hit it high and it was about 98 degrees," he said. "So when it's that hot here, the ball does travel a lot better. And I think I just said it outside, if it's 10 degrees cooler, that's probably a routine fly ball in left field."

Said Astros manager A.J. Hinch: "When the ball left the bat, I didn't think it was gone. The ball carried a little bit. But there's no doubt he's pretty locked in, especially in big moments."

But hitting the ball high has been the key to Turner's transformation. He rehashed for the national media how he remodeled his swing working with Marlon Byrd and his Southern California hitting guru, Doug Latta, during the offseason before he joined the Dodgers in the spring of 2014. With defenses going increasingly to shifts, Byrd suggested Turner hit the ball over defenders instead of trying to go through them.

Video: NLCS MVPs Turner, Taylor keep up pace in World Series

Now Turner is a slugger, but one pure enough to finish third in the NL batting race after leading it much of the regular season. If he didn't play the same position as Colorado's Nolan Arenado, Turner might already have one of those Gold Glove Awards or Silver Slugger Awards that he passes in the franchise Hall of Fame walking from the elevator to the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium.

Video: WS2017 Gm1: Turner on record, joining Dodgers legends

After last season, Turner was rewarded with a $64 million contract. Now that his walk-off homer in Game 2 of the NLCS has been compared to Gibson's epic World Series homer in 1988, and he's a World Series hero, too, Turner is in the spotlight over and over, and he seems to know what to do when he's there. Dodgers fans are all-in with him.

"That was probably just as loud as it was on the walk-off homer," Turner said. "This place was the most electric I've ever seen it, which it should be, the first World Series here in 29 years."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Justin Turner