LOS ANGELES -- The 2021 postseason has been fairly unconventional so far for Justin Turner, who sat out Game 2 of the National League Championship Series with a neck stinger. It marked the first time since 2014 -- a span of 77 consecutive games -- that Turner wasn’t in the starting lineup for a Dodgers playoff game.
The injury, which made it difficult for Turner to turn his head to the right, ruled him out from playing defense on Sunday. He was available to pinch-hit, which he did in the seventh inning and got hit by a pitch.
Things were back to normal for the Dodgers on Tuesday as Turner returned to the lineup, batting fifth and playing third base for Game 3 against the Braves at Dodger Stadium. He went 0-for-3 with a walk, but L.A. cut its series deficit to 2-1 after a four-run eighth inning paved the way to a 6-5 victory.
The other way this postseason has been unusual for Turner has been his slow start. In the eight games he’s started, he’s gone 3-for-31 (.097), with just one extra-base hit (though it was a big one -- a game-tying homer in the NL Wild Card Game).
Those struggles run counter to Turner’s past October performances. In 72 games across the Dodgers’ past seven playoff runs, Turner has slashed .295/.392/.507, his 12 home runs setting the franchise record for most postseason homers. His Wild Card Game homer increased that total to 13.
Although Turner didn’t spend any time on the injured list this season, he’s dealt with a handful of ailments. A groin injury sustained in August caused him to miss four games. The all-time Dodgers franchise hit-by-pitch leader, Turner has also been hit by 14 pitches in the regular season and postseason combined, most recently taking one off the left elbow on Sunday. Add in the neck stinger, and it’s fair to say Turner has not been at 100 percent for much of the past few months.
“I think that with all that he's gone through, it certainly hasn't been easy, and it's been certainly a grind,” manager Dave Roberts said. “But I think that he's just so mentally tough to kind of get through it all to be present and to put his best foot forth in a particular game.”
Buehler feeling good
Coming off his first career appearance on short rest, Walker Buehler said he has responded well and was in good physical shape heading into his Tuesday start.
“He's feeling great,” Roberts said. “He's got the extra rest, and he's out there throwing right now and he feels great. He'll be ready to go.”
In Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Giants, Buehler, pitching on three days’ rest, threw 71 pitches in 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball. It was a shorter-than-average outing for Buehler, but it was an effective enough performance to help Los Angeles stave off elimination.
As it turns out, though, pitching on short rest isn’t the only thing Buehler’s dealt with recently. The right-hander revealed on Monday that he “got a little sick” while the team was still in San Francisco for the NLDS. Buehler chose not to disclose the nature of the illness, saying only that it didn’t prevent him from flying with the team to Atlanta.
That malady evidently behind him, Buehler entered Tuesday’s start on six days’ rest. In a limited sample size of four starts this year on six or more days of rest, Buehler had a 2.88 ERA and averaged just more than six innings per start. While the Dodgers were hoping for comparable length, Buehler lasted just 3 2/3 innings, allowing four runs on seven hits and three walks.