Chris Taylor smashed three home runs as the Los Angeles Dodgers saved their season with a 11-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves to stay alive in their National League Championship Series on Thursday.
Left-fielder A.J. Pollock added two more homers and the Dodgers bullpen held firm as the reigning World Series champions finally came alive in a must-win game five at Dodger Stadium.
The victory leaves the Braves 3-2 ahead in the best-of-seven series, with the final two games taking place in Atlanta on Saturday and Sunday.
“First time I’ve ever done that, it’s kind of surreal,” said Taylor, who has come alive in the playoffs after struggling through the latter part of the regular season.
“I feel pretty good right — I’m not thinking too much. I was kind of grinding for the last couple of months of the regular season and I worked through some things. Once you get a couple of hits the confidence comes.”
Taylor said the Dodgers had been determined to respond after being routed 9-2 in game four on Wednesday.
“We needed to make a statement,” he said. “They put it on us yesterday so we had to respond. It was a good answer for us.
“Now we go to Atlanta and we’ll try and take two. We’re still in a good spot.”
With Wednesday’s drubbing still fresh, game five started ominously for the Dodgers, with Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman crushing a 425-foot homer off starter Joe Kelly for a 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers pitching was forced into a hasty change, with Kelly exiting injured after getting the second out of the inning.
Braves starter Max Fried held the Dodgers to a scoreless inning in the first, but was in trouble in the bottom of the second.
Pollock crashed a homer into left center field to make it 2-1 before Albert Pujols singled with a sharp line drive into left field to keep the pressure on.
Taylor then cashed in with his first home run of the night to put the Dodgers into a 3-2 lead.
Taylor drove in another run in the bottom of the third to score Pollock and leave the Dodgers 4-2 ahead.
Crucially, the Dodgers bullpen held firm in the fourth, with reliever Brusdar Graterol getting rid of Freeman, Austin Riley and Adam Duvall in six pitches.
Graterol delivered another brisk inning in the fifth as the Braves finally pulled Fried after the ace walked Will Smith and Pujols.
Taylor immediately jumped on Fried’s replacement Chris Martin, sending another home run into left field to score Pujols and put the Dodgers 6-2 up.
Dodgers reliever Blake Treinen held it down for the sixth and seventh innings before Taylor incredibly made it 7-2 to with his third home run of the night off Dylan Lee.
Trea Turner drove in a run in the bottom of the eighth to make it 8-2 and Pollock bludgeoned a three-run home run to complete the Dodgers scoring.