ATLANTA - It would be easy to assume that Trea Turner has already shown the Nationals the best he has to offer. Shoot, how could he be any better than he already has been through 58 games this season?
But then Turner goes and has a game like he did tonight. He went 4-for-5. He scored four runs. He homered. He doubled. He drove in two runs. He stole two bases. He made another nice play in center field.
Most importantly, he was a major contributor to the Nationals' 7-2 victory over the Braves, one that brought them a step closer to the National League East title. Their magic number to clinch the division is now six.
As Max Scherzer summed up Turner's contributions: "Trea's got his fingers all over it again."
The Nationals knew they would be getting a potential impact speedster and contact hitter atop their lineup when they finally decided to make Turner an everyday player in late July. They did not know he would be so much more than just that.
Turner is batting .349, same as NL batting leader and teammate Daniel Murphy (albeit in 275 fewer at-bats). He's slugging .558, which would rank fourth in the league if he qualified. He has stolen 26 bases, seventh most in the league despite the fact he's only been in the big leagues about one-third of the season.
"This guy can do absolutely everything," Scherzer said. "I've never seen anybody have this much speed and this much power from that frame. It's unbelievable what he does. He impacts the game in so many different ways. ... He's playing like somebody who's got 10 years in the big leagues, and he's a rookie. He's only been up here for a little bit. He's off here running, literally and figuratively."
Turner's second-inning homer (his ninth of the season) was his most obvious highlight of the night. But fast-forward to the top of the seventh, when he singled, then stole second even when the Braves pitched out, then stole third even with a left-handed batter at the plate. Single-handedly, he put himself in position to score on Murphy's sacrifice fly.
"That helps everybody," manager Dusty Baker said. "As he goes, we go. When he gets on base, he has a great chance of being safe. And then the guys behind him get some fastballs to hit. And you see they pitched out tonight, wasted a ball on a pitchout, and he was still safe."
Turner has the green light to steal, by his estimation, about 95 percent of the time. But he recognizes he has to pick his spots carefully and not just run at will. That was especially true on his swipe of third base tonight, with an MVP candidate at the plate.
"I don't want to steal in a hitter's count," Turner said. "I want him to do some damage, do what he's done all year. It's just a matter more so of making sure I'm doing the right thing for the hitter."
Murphy certainly appreciates every opportunity he gets to drive in the rookie speedster.
"Any time he's on base, he's putting the pitcher in a high-leverage situation," the veteran second baseman said. "Which is good for our offense."
Turner hasn't just been good for the Nationals offense. He's been great, solving what had been a major problem area and offering up far more than anyone reasonably expected.
Tonight he became only the sixth player in club history with a four-run, four-hit game, joining an eclectic group: Marlon Byrd (2005), Josh Willingham (2009), Steve Lombardozzi (2012), Denard Span (2015) and Murphy (2016).
It would be easy to assume the Nationals have seen everything Turner has in him now. Nobody who has watched him on a daily basis this summer, though, is resigning themselves to that.
"Hey, man, we just keep accepting it," Baker said. "Just keep it coming."