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In Game 1 Of The World Series, Justin Turner Is The Dodgers Breakout Star


The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros are back at it tonight for Game 2 of the World Series. Last night in LA, the Dodgers won the opener. And once again, they were fueled by a player who looks like a Muppet and who's hitting like Babe Ruth. NPR's Tom Goldman has this story about breakout star Justin Turner.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: So the Muppet Justin Turner resembles with his long red hair and bushy red beard is Animal. The two have become quite the pair at Dodger Stadium. When Turner hits a home run, there's Animal on the big screen, shaking his shaggy red head and shouting out Turner's name.


ERIC JACOBSON: (As Animal, chanting) Justin, Justin, Justin...

GOLDMAN: Dodgers fans have been seeing a lot of Animal.


GOLDMAN: That's the sound after Turner's fourth home run this postseason, a two-run blast last night that gave LA its winning score. Turner now has 14 runs batted in during these playoffs. That's a Dodgers record for one postseason.

His suddenness in these playoffs really isn't that sudden. He's 32 and has been with LA for years. This season, he was named to the all-star team. So he's been building. But this postseason explosion at the plate has been dramatic, startling even to Turner, who was asked last night if earlier in his career he could envision becoming this Justin Turner.



GOLDMAN: Before signing with the Dodgers, Turner was with the New York Mets, in his words, trying to survive and take quality at-bats as an under-used bench player. But then he met Marlon Byrd, a fellow Major Leaguer who revamped his swing while serving a doping suspension. Inspired by Byrd, Turner made swing adjustments of his own near the end of the 2013 season.


TURNER: Next thing I know, you know, we go to Cleveland in September. I hit a couple home runs. And we finish the year against Washington. And I hit a few balls off the wall in center field. And I'm like, oh, man, like, what just happened? I need to dig into this some more because it's obviously getting good results from it.

GOLDMAN: Dig in he did. He went to work with batting coach Doug Latta, who helped Byrd change his swing.

TURNER: I was in the cage with him literally five days a week for the entire offseason trying to nail it down and figure it out and be able to repeat the swing over and over and over again.

GOLDMAN: It's a lot more technical than this, but essentially Turner started transferring his weight forward a lot earlier than he had and launching the ball high into the air, swing changes that changed his career. And it's coming together at the perfect time for the Dodgers and for Animal. The Muppet may make a few more cameos on the big screen before this World Series is over. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Los Angeles.


Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.
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