The Los Angeles Dodgers faced two intertwined questions with their lineup for the National League Wild Card Game: who would start at first base and in center field? In a mild surprise, Chris Taylor was not the answer for the outfield.
Instead, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts elected to pencil in Matt Beaty at first base and Cody Bellinger in center field. “My confidence in Chris as a baseball player hasn’t changed,” Roberts said before his club faced the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I think that certainly he’s been grinding the second half. He really has. But we’re going to need him.”
Taylor wound up entering as part of a double-switch in seventh inning. He later delivered a walk-off home run — the fourth in Dodgers postseason history — to keep the team’s World Series defense alive and put them in the NL Division Series.
“I know obviously it’s a little different not starting the game,” Taylor said after his heroics. “I was just trying to stay ready off the bench. I knew there was a really good chance I was going to come in at some point, just the way we operate.
“I was trying to be ready when my number was called. These are the type of moments that you dream about and you live for, and to be able to look back on this for the rest of my life, I’m just fortunate that I was able to come through in that spot.”
Taylor’s career arc reached new levels since getting traded to the Dodgers. A middling utility man with the Seattle Mariners, he has further enhanced that ability to become an All-Star and integral part of a perennial World Series contender.
“It’s been quite a journey. I think I am a believer that everything happens for a reason, and there’s highs and lows,” Taylor said. “Everything I’ve been through, all the struggles, the successes, everything has brought me to this point.
“I think this is right where I’m supposed to be, with this team. I’m very fortunate.”
Taylor focused small, feeling healthy
Part of Taylor’s slump during the second half was playing through a lingering neck issue that may now be in the past. “It feels good,” he said.
“The last week or so it’s felt a lot better. I felt like I haven’t been thinking about it when I’m playing, which is good. I feel like it shouldn’t be an issue going forward.”
As for the dramatic home run, Taylor simply wanted to put the ball in play once Cody Bellinger stole second base.
“I was just trying not to do too much and get a pitch,” he explained. “I chased that first [slider] in the dirt. Kind of wanted to see it up and try to stay right-center. He kind of left it over the middle of the plate for me and I was able to get it up in the air to left.”
Have you subscribed to the Dodger Blue YouTube channel? Be sure to ring the notification bell to watch player interviews, participate in shows and giveaways, and more!