Hernández: An absence of offense during postseason could be Dodgers' undoing

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Los Angeles, CA - October 20: Los Angeles Dodgers' Justin Turner reacts to an apparent injury after hitting into a double play during the seventh inning in game four in the 2021 National League Championship Series against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers' Justin Turner reacts to an apparent injury after hitting into a double play during the seventh inning in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

He used to turn moments like these into memories.

People standing. Towels waving. Man on first.

Justin Turner didn’t spread his arms and fly around the bases on this Wednesday night. His first name wasn’t chanted over and over by a Muppets character on the video scoreboard.

In what was the Dodgers’ final opportunity to reduce a three-run deficit against the Atlanta Braves, Turner struck a sharp grounder up the middle in the seventh inning.

Which is exactly where second baseman Ozzie Albies was shifted.

Double play.

Another frustrating at-bat for a wayward offense was about to turn into something worse, as the All-Star third baseman clutched his left hamstring as he hobbled through first base.

Early indications are that Turner has a hamstring strain, manager Dave Roberts said, “so, I think that will be it for him.”

The rest of the team can be eliminated as early as Thursday, a 9-2 defeat increasing the Dodgers’ deficit in the best-of-seven series to three games to one.

Andrew Friedman and his front-office lieutenants bear responsibility for destroying their rotation, but they aren’t the only culprits.

Their hitters aren’t hitting. The NL’s highest-scoring team isn’t scoring.

The Dodgers collected only four hits in the Game 4 loss. Another game like this and Los Angeles will be a contender to steal Atlanta’s hard-earned designation as Choke City.

Roberts looked and sounded confounded by the nonexistent offense.

“I know it’s not for lack of work and preparation, so the last part of it, and most important, is execution,” Roberts said. “I just … I don’t have an answer.”

The team with a $260-million roster is batting a collective .231 in this postseason, the worst average of any of the four remaining teams. Highlighting the offensive paralysis has been the unexpected slumps of the two Turners.

Justin Turner, who has become the Dodgers’ version of Mr. October in recent years, is batting .121 in these playoffs. Trea Turner, the NL batting champion, is hitting .182 after a 0-for-4 night.

Mookie Betts is batting .368. Cody Bellinger is hitting .296 and Chris Taylor .286. Will Smith has a .278 average and a team-leading three homers. Corey Seager homered twice earlier in this series but is hitting only .205.

And that’s it.

The score-tying three-run home run by Bellinger on Tuesday night that was expected to jump-start the Dodgers’ offense? The go-ahead double by Betts that stole a Game 3 victory and was supposed to break the Braves’ spirits?

In retrospect, it was just a short break from the Halloween horror show of an offense.

The Dodgers have scored two or fewer runs in five of their 10 postseason games, but their latest display of futility was especially unpardonable. It’s one thing to be slowed down by Max Fried of the Braves or Logan Webb of the San Francisco Giants. It’s another to look helpless against a group of ham-and-eggers in a Waffle House of a bullpen.

Without a capable starter available to pitch Game 4, Braves manager Brian Snitker resorted to a bullpen game. Even that effort was compromised, as the Braves’ initially scheduled starter, Huascar Ynoa, was scratched because of shoulder inflammation.

Veteran right-hander Jesse Chavez opened the game instead — and retired Betts, Seager and Trea Turner in order.

Chavez was replaced by left-hander Drew Smyly, who kept the perfect game intact through three innings. Seager was the only baserunner Smyly allowed through the fourth inning and that was on a walk.

Smyly was the same pitcher who posted a 4.48 earned-run average in the regular season. He was the same pitcher whom the Dodgers blew up for five runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings in late August.

The Dodgers were already down 5-0 when they registered their first hit against Smyly, a single to right field by Justin Turner with one out in the fifth inning. Turner advanced to third base on a line-drive single by Bellinger.

Right-hander Chris Martin replaced Smyly and suckered Taylor into flying out to right field on the first pitch of his at-bat.

Bellinger stole second base with AJ Pollock at the plate, which allowed the Dodgers to score two runs instead of one on Pollock’s single to right.

The extra run proved inconsequential, as the Dodgers failed to score again.

“Outside of that inning that we built and AJ had a nice at-bat right there … we just really didn’t threaten,” Roberts said. “I just really don’t have an answer.”

The Dodgers will have to discover something with Fried on the mound for the Braves — and without Justin Turner in their lineup.

The red-maned Turner had to be helped down the dugout stairs by Pollock and a trainer. He limped into the Dodgers clubhouse with Albert Pujols behind him. Turner won’t be seen on the field again this October. The question is whether the Dodgers’ offense will reappear before it’s too late.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.