Thursday night at Dodger Stadium could have been Chris Taylor’s final game as a Dodger, as the invaluable jack of all trades is a free agent at the end of the season. But it wasn’t, thanks mostly to Taylor himself, who had a record night at the plate in an 11-2 Dodgers rout of the Braves in Game 5 of the NLCS.
“This is why you play the game. When you look back on all the years playing for the Dodgers, it’s all these big postseason games that are the most special to me,” Taylor said after hitting three home runs on Thursday. “I think these are moments that we’re going to be able to look back on for the rest of our lives and it’s pretty cool.”
Among those moments were Taylor receiving what he said was the first curtain call of his career. It was well deserved.
“It’s definitely surreal feeling for me,” Taylor said. “I never thought I was going to hit three homers in a game, let alone a postseason game, and it just still hasn’t really sunk in.”
Taylor had four hits, including three home runs, driving in six runs in the win. The homers tied a major league record for the postseason, done 11 other times, and Taylor’s 13 home runs are the most by a Dodger in a postseason game.
Of the group of 11 players with a three-homer postseason game (including Babe Ruth, who did it twice), Taylor is the only one to do so in an elimination game.
Taylor also hit a walk-off home run to win one of those elimination games, this year’s wild card game, putting him in a group of one:
Chris Taylor of the @Dodgers is the first player in MLB history to have a walkoff HR when facing elimination and a multi-HR game when facing elimination in his postseason career (let alone in the same year).— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) October 22, 2021
Elimination games are nothing new for the Dodgers, who have won seven of those in a row, dating back to the 2020 NLCS. Under Dave Roberts, the Dodgers are 11-4 when facing elimination.
“I wish we put ourselves in a better position,” AJ Pollock said of the Dodgers, who trailed 3-1 in the NLCS entering Thursday. “But look, I think we’re always confident. We always feel like when we put the guys out there that we’re going to win. So I think elimination, no elimination, it doesn’t matter. We feel good about our team and our chances.”
Scoring 11 runs goes a long way in improving confidence, especially for an offense that didn’t score that many in any two-game stretch this postseason before Thursday. The Dodgers have scored more than 11 in a postseason game six times, but Game 5 was the highest for the franchise when facing elimination.
LA’s 17 hits were their most in any postseason game.
The five home runs, including two by Pollock, tied a Dodgers franchise best, done also in Game 3 of the 2020 NLCS.
Taylor’s three homers were the headliner, and among the 11 other players with a three-homer postseason game was a man waiting for Taylor at home plate twice on Thursday, ready to dispense hugs. Albert Pujols is the only other member of the three-homer October fraternity to also drive in six runs and collect at least four hits. Pujols had five hits in his three-homer game in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series.
“It’s something that he’s going to tell his kids. The highlights are going to be there the rest of his life, and that’s something that you’re going to share forever,” Pujols said. “A moment like this doesn’t happen every day. I mean, it’s hard to hit one home run in a game, imagine three, especially in the postseason. This is not easy. That’s why there are not that many guys that have done it.”
Pujols, getting the start at first base with left-hander Max Fried on the mound, reached base three times with two singles and a walk. The two hits broke Pujols’ tie with Pete Rose atop the all-time NLCS list. Pujols has 47 career hits in this round, hitting .373/.456/.675 in 36 games.
It wasn’t just at the plate where the Dodgers excelled in Game 5. Cody Bellinger stole second base in the fifth inning against Chris Martin, and Mookie Betts stole second in the eighth off of Jacob Webb. The Dodgers have 16 stolen bases this postseason without getting caught, in only 11 games. The rest of MLB has 20 steals in 47 games.
Most Dodgers SB, postseason series
|1965 World Series||MIN||7||9|
Sixteen steals are the most in a single postseason by the Dodgers, but this isn’t just a product of playing in an era with multiple rounds. LA’s 11 steals in the NLCS are their most in any postseason series. The previous high was nine stolen bases, done in both the 1965 World Series and 1988 NLCS, each of which lasted seven games.
With at least one and potentially two games remaining in this series, something to think about: the MLB record for most team stolen bases in a League Championship Series is 16 by the A’s in the 1992 ALCS. In the NLCS, the record is 14 steals by the 1999 Braves.
Thursday’s win was the Dodgers’ fourth win at Dodger Stadium this postseason. Adding to the MLB-best 58-23 home record, that makes 62 home wins in 2021, tying the 1953 Brooklyn team (60-17 at Ebbets Field during the season, 2-1 in the World Series) for the most home wins in one year in franchise history.
Whether the Dodgers get a chance to add to that home win total remains to be seen, so it’s still possible that Game 5 of the NLCS was in fact Taylor’s final home game at Dodger Stadium.
“We appreciate him a lot. He’s a fun guy. He’s got his own personality that’s very unique. He’s not a big guy for the drama. He’s just super calm and he’s so consistent for us,” Pollock said of Taylor. “He’s just a really, really good baseball player. Since I’ve been here, he’s about as consistent as you get.”
“He’s just one of the best I’ve seen at just being in the moment,” said manager Dave Roberts. “I think that when his career is over, he can look back and appreciate that.”