JT's breakout signals LA's true offensive potential

2 years ago

PITTSBURGH — It hasn’t been the start to the season Justin Turner was expecting. Through the first month of 2022, the 37-year-old third baseman struggled to find his usual consistency at the plate.

Turner had been chasing pitches he normally does not offer at and hasn’t yet hit for much power. He entered Tuesday’s game with a 36 OPS+, making him 64 percent worse than the league average of 100.

Naturally, at his age, it’s easy to wonder if Father Time is knocking on the door. Over the last few nights, however, Turner has been putting together better at-bats. The results haven’t been there, but the Dodgers have been encouraged by some of the progress.

On Tuesday night, Turner finally broke out and got some results, going 4-for-5 with three doubles and four RBIs in the Dodgers’ 11-1 drubbing of the Pirates at PNC Park.

“I think I’ve been feeling better this whole road trip,” Turner said. “Taking better at-bats, seeing the ball better, hitting balls harder. It was good to get results tonight, but at the same time, happy with the process and hitting balls hard, and swinging at good pitches.”

Turner said his past experiences with slow starts make it easier for him to know that he’ll eventually bounce back. He did acknowledge, however, that his approach at the plate was much worse than it has been in previous years. After a lot of cage work and watching old videos, Turner thinks he’s getting closer.

“A lot of it is trial and error, trying different things in the cage, trying different things in batting practice, and then taking those feels into the game,” Turner said. “I think on this road trip, I found a few things that I like, and I think they’re sustainable.”

With Turner finding some success in the middle of the order, the rest of the Dodgers’ lineup erupted alongside the third baseman. Eight of the nine starters recorded an extra-base hit. Mookie Betts was the only one that didn’t, but the star outfielder chipped in with a huge outfield assist in the first inning.

The Dodgers hit eight doubles, tying a franchise record since the team moved to Los Angeles. Max Muncy chipped in with a triple and Edwin Ríos capped off the big night with a two-run homer.

“It was a really good offensive night and just good to see guys break out,” said manager Dave Roberts, who predicted a big night before the game. “I just had a good feeling about our guys. We take pride in winning baseball games, winning series, and last night was an ugly one. I expected to see a different result tonight.”

The Dodgers have been expecting different results for most of the last month, which poses a question that nearly everyone asked before the season: Just how good can this offense be?

When you look at the Dodgers’ offensive numbers, you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that they have one of the most potent lineups in the Majors. They’re the only team averaging more than five runs per game.

But when you ask the Dodgers, they’ll give you a different answer. They believe their best performances are ahead of them.

Outside of Freddie Freeman, the team’s most consistent contributor, and Betts, who has been hot at the plate recently despite an 0-for-5 night on Tuesday, Los Angeles has had a handful of players battling mechanics and slow starts at the plate.

This is an offense that came into the season with lofty expectations and hasn’t quite met them after one month, even if their overall numbers are still elite. After a season-high 15 hits and 11 runs, the Dodgers hope the days of consistent production at the plate are upon them.

“I think a lot of what you saw tonight is going to happen,” said shortstop Trea Turner. “I don’t feel like I’ve been going great. JT and Muncy obviously feel they can do better. I just think up and down, there’s people that feel like there’s a lot more in the tank, and we take pride in that. The pitching has been really good and kind of carried us. But I think nights like tonight are going to happen a lot more often when we get going.”