“I appreciate the fact he goes out there and plays every day,” manager Davey Martinez said. “It’s hard to do these days. I talk to him and ask if he needs a day off, and he’s good to go. He loves to play.”
Turner hasn’t started all 153 of those games. Four times this season he has been out of the lineup but still appeared off the bench.
Even so, the Nationals shortstop is in some rare company in today’s sport. Only Freddy Galvis of the Padres has played in more games this season (153, though San Diego is off tonight). Only Galvis (150) and the Braves’ Freddie Freeman (152) have started more games than Turner (149).
If he keeps this up the rest of the way, Turner will do something only one other player in Nationals history has done: play in all 162 games in a season. Ryan Zimmerman did it in 2007, back when he was a spry young third baseman. Only Austin Kearns (161 games in 2007) and Danny Espinosa (160 in 2012) have come close to appearing in every game.
And it’s not like Turner’s production has suffered as a result of the heavy workload. He has recorded a hit in 17 of his last 19 games. He also has seven stolen bases in that span, raising his league-leading total to 40.
What’s the key to staying sharp physically and mentally this late in the season when you haven’t had days off?
“The biggest thing for them is to know how to take a break,” Martinez said. “His routine, he’s shortened up a lot. He’s taking less swings this time of year. He’s taking less groundballs this time of year. Doing a little bit less trying to get ready, because he’s played. It doesn’t take much to get him ready. Just spend a little more time to take care of your body in the training room, as opposed to going out there and hitting, hitting, hitting. It’s enabled him to stay out there and play.”
Before tonight’s game, Turner is being presented with the Heart and Hustle Award. The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association gives the award to one player from each club who “demonstrates a passion for the game of baseball and best embodies the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”
Turner’s season totals (.268 batting average, .338 on-base percentage, .741 OPS) won’t top his totals from his first two big league seasons. But he already has set career highs in homers (17) and runs (94), and with a strong finish on the bases has a chance to top his team record 46 steals from 2017.
“He’s been unbelievable all year long,” Martinez said. “I feel bad that he didn’t make the All-Star team. I thought he should have. But you know what, for me there’s always an All-Star team at the end of the year. Continue to play hard and try to make that one. And that’s the big one, to me.”