The Dodgers attempted climb to the top started at the bottom, with the five, six, seven, eight hitters of the lineup dancing around the bases for most of Game 5. Chris Taylor was the choreographer of Thursday night’s 11-2 win over the Braves at Dodger Stadium, with three home runs among his four hits.
Los Angeles pulled to within three games to two in the National League Championship Series, ensuring the series will move to Atlanta, thanks to the Dodgers winning their fourth elimination game this postseason, and seventh in a row dating back to last October.
Offense is the barometer for Dodgers success this postseason, especially after averaging just 3.5 runs per game, scoring two or fewer five times in 10 games.
“I think we could search for answers and this, that, and the other, but sometimes you just don’t get hot, and I feel like we haven’t gotten hot as a unit. That make it’s really hard to win like that,” said Mookie Betts, one of the Dodgers’ most productive hitters this October. “Then you just are solely relying on your pitching, not letting them score at all, and that’s not a team thing. So we have to find a way to get hot, and there’s only one way to do it, and that’s just going out and playing.”
The heat started with AJ Pollock homering in the second inning, the first of four consecutive hits off Braves starter Max Fried. That included a two-run home run by Chris Taylor, who will take over at third base the rest of the way this postseason with Justin Turner injured.
Albert Pujols, who started at first base against a left-hander in Game 5, singled after a Pollock single in the fifth, then Taylor drove in another run with a single of his own. Pujols had two singles and a walk on Thursday, at 41 years, 278 days old the fourth-oldest in MLB history to reach base three times in a postseason game.
The walk to Pujols ended Fried’s night with two outs in the fifth, then Taylor followed with his second home run of the game, pushing the Dodgers’ advantage to four runs.
In the seventh there was nobody on, but Taylor was still in scoring position, launching his third home run.
A TAYLOR-MADE GAME FOR CHRIS. pic.twitter.com/sNc1K9HVOy— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 22, 2021
He’s the 11th player in major league history with three home runs in a postseason game, a list that started with Babe Ruth doing it twice (1926, 1928). The last player to do it before Taylor was Kiké Hernández, whose seven runs batted in to close out the Cubs in Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS set a Dodgers record.
Taylor has the second-most RBI in franchise history in a postseason game, with six. His 13 total bases are a new Dodgers record. He’s hitting .375/.447/.844 this postseason.
Taylor hit seventh in Game 5, preceded by Pollock (who also added a three-run home run in the eighth) and Pujols, and followed by Cody Bellinger, who had three hits. The Dodgers’ five through eight hitters had 12 hits in 18 at-bats with five home runs on Thursday, scoring eight runs and driving in 10.
“That’s what we needed to do. We needed to put up a statement,” Taylor told Lauren Shehadi on TBS. “They put it on us yesterday.”
The other side
Joe Kelly was on the mound first in this bullpen game, but it wasn’t even his first NLCS Game 5 start with the Dodgers trailing 3-1 in a series. He started things off on the right foot by doing the impossible, getting Eddie Rosario out. But then Ozzie Albies singled and Freddie Freeman homered for the second day in a row. Injury was added to insult just seven pitches and one out later when Kelly walked off the mound with a right biceps strain.
The injury will end Kelly’s season, as the Dodgers plan to replace him on the roster before Saturday’s Game 6.
Even rarer than getting Rosario out this postseason is throwing out a runner trying to steal, but in the third inning both were linked. After Rosario singled, naturally — his 11th hit of the NLCS — he was thrown out at second by Will Smith, the first caught stealing in the entire National League playoffs, in the 24th attempt.
The Dodgers’ two best pitching games of the NLCS are the two planned bullpen games, in Games 1 and 5. After Freeman’s home run in the first, Atlanta was held scoreless by six pitchers. Evan Phillips struck out three of his four batters faced, all outs. Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen each pitched two scoreless frames.
NLCS Game 5 particulars
Home runs: AJ Pollock 2 (2), Chris Taylor 3 (4); Freddie Freeman (3)
WP — Evan Phillips (1-0): 1⅓ IP, 3 strikeouts
LP — Max Fried (1-1): 4⅔ IP, 8 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
The NLCS moves to Atlanta for at least one, and maybe two games. Game 6 is on Saturday on TBS (2:08 p.m. PT if the ALCS needs a Game 7; 5:08 p.m. PT if the ALCS finishes Friday). Max Scherzer starts for the Dodgers against Ian Anderson for the Braves in a rematch of Game 2.