It’s no surprise to say Justin Turner is sorely missed as the Dodgers started the season being shut out for 18 innings. Turner, being the number three hitter, is the heart and soul of a star-studded Dodgers lineup. His absence takes away a stabilizing force in the middle of the lineup.
Turner fractured his wrist when he was hit by a pitch right at the end of Spring Training to make matters worse. Unexpected was the injury, but the offensive struggles to start the season was expected. Dating back to 2016, when Justin Turner was either not in the lineup or was struggling at the plate, the Dodgers didn’t win.
Other than hitting over .300 and smashing key home runs, Turner’s hitting approach represents the mentality shared by the Dodgers that made them so successful offensively last season. If you’ve watched the Dodgers every day, it’s a laborious task because the games tend to run a little longer. Why? The Dodgers are very patient at the plate. They see a lot of pitches, foul them off, and take walks if their pitch doesn’t come to them before the fourth ball. Their hitting approach reflects the entire team’s approach. Win one pitch at a time, win one game at a time.
However, the Dodgers seemed to abandon this approach when they were pressing at times last season. They abandoned it when Turner was missing time and struggling during the dark days of late August and early September. They abandoned it after the shocking Game 2 loss in the World Series. A prime example would be Cody Bellinger striking out 17 times on the same curveball inside, most of which were balls.
After the opening games of the season, it seems the Dodgers have again abandoned their philosophy with a new addition. They can’t hit their pitch. So what do uncertain, over-aggressive, hitters who can’t hit their pitches spell? 18 scoreless innings, and continuous offensive struggles.
That being said, the Dodgers can’t afford to wait until Turner comes back and gets into the swing of things. They need to find someone to fill that hole and maybe they’ve found him over the weekend.
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Yasiel Puig’s been hitting third to split up the two core lefties in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, but he’s had several good swings and loud outs since season’s start. Though they didn’t result in hits, they finally turned into gold with a couple of hard line drive base hits.
The first of those came on a 3-0 pitch after a leadoff Seager single. That soon was followed by a bizarre play that resulted in the game’s first run. Bellinger flied out to left, Seager tagged from second to third but Puig was caught between first and second. The ensuing rundown let Seager score and Puig was safe at first. Though he would be picked off soon after, he was the one to make things happen.
His second hit was a line drive RBI double in the right-center field gap that scored Chris Taylor after Seager failed to advance him from second. Hitting is contagious and hitting with runners in scoring position breaks everyone out of slumps. What happened next? Grandal knocked Puig in, and Bellinger broke the Dodgers streak without a home run and his first hit of 2018.
Taylor and Seager may set the table and Bellinger may be the thunder, but Puig, for now, should be the heartbeat of the offense. As long as Puig maintains his swing and the Dodgers approach, the team will look like the Dodgers that won 104 games and went to the World Series a year before.