Chris Taylor, 27, the Dodgers’ breakout star this season, transformed himself from a utility infielder on the fringes of a major league roster to the leadoff batter on the team with the best record in the major leagues.
He showed up in spring training with a revamped swing and his season took off from there. And so have the questions about why and how.
“I think I get it in every interview,” Taylor said before the Dodgers defeated the Chicago Cubs 11-1 to win the National League Championship Series four games to one. “’What’s the difference in the success this year?’ And every time I’ve talked about my swing change. So stop asking that question, please.”
Taylor’s response, which came during a news conference, drew laughter around the room. But the next question?
Yeah, it was another one about his swing.
And Taylor, as he always does, answered politely.
Then he went out and worked a nine-pitch walk to lead off the game and scored on a double to right by Cody Bellinger. In his next at-bat, Taylor led off a five-run third inning with a ground-rule double to left and scored on a hit by Justin Turner.
Next, in the fourth, he singled up the middle but was thrown out at home trying to score on a ground ball to third base by Yasiel Puig.
Clayton Kershaw celebrates with champagne in the clubhouse after the Dodgers won the National League pennant.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kike Hernandez celebrates after the Dodgers won the National League pennant by beating the Cubs.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers players celebrate the National League pennant after defeating the Cubs.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw carries his son Charlie after the Dodgers won the National League pennant in Game 5 of the NLCS at Wrigley Field.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Clayton Kershaw celebrates the Dodgers’ victory over the Cubs.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez celebrates his third home run of the game.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig slides home safely after a hit by Logan Forsyth in the fourth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodegr players celebrate winning the National League pennant after defeating the Cubs 11-1.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kike Hernandez celebrates his grand slam with teammates in the third inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kike Hernandez, right, celebrates his grand slam with Dodgers teammate Joc Pederson in the third inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Kike Hernandez runs the bases after hitting a grand slam in the third inning. The homer gave the Dodgers a 7-0 lead.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez hits a solo home run against the Cubs in the second inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Justin Turner points to the Dodgers dugout after an RBI-single againat the Cubs in the third inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Chris Taylor beats the throw to Cubs catcher Willson Contreras to score on a double by Cody Bellinger in the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez, right, celebrates his grand slam with Yasiel Puig.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Dodgers’ Kike Hernandez hits a solo home run in the second inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws against the Cubs in the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
In his last two at-bats, Taylor grounded out to Kris Bryant at third base, though Bryant needed to make a terrific backhand of a shot headed for the left-field corner in the sixth inning.
Taylor, splitting time on defense in center field and shortstop, batted .316 in the NLCS, with two home runs and three runs batted in. He also scored five runs. He shared MVP honors for the series with Turner.
Taylor is typically monotone and bland when talking about himself, but he showed a humorous side when he was asked about Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, who can be animated on the mound and in the dugout.
“He gets pretty fired up in the dugout,” Taylor said. “He’s had a couple first innings where he’s given up a run or two, and nothing’s safe. Coolers aren’t safe. The gum tray, whatever’s in there, you just kind of stay out of his way.”
The Dodgers had five other hitters join Taylor with averages of better than .300 during the NLCS.
The leader? Charlie Culberson, who was only on the roster because of Corey Seager’s injury.
Culberson hit .455, with two doubles and a triple among his five hits. He also played flawlessly on defense.
Other top hitters: Enrique Hernandez, who did much of his damage in Thursday’s deciding game, at .444. Puig batted .389 and reached base in half of his plate appearances. Turner hit .333 and tied Hernandez for the lead in runs batted in with seven. Bellinger hit .318 and was tied with Puig for the team lead with seven hits.
The Dodgers bullpen has a major league postseason record streak going of 23 scoreless innings.
Kenta Maeda, Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen each pitched a scoreless inning Thursday, combining to strike out five and give up one hit.
In the NLCS, Dodgers relievers struck out 22 in 17 innings and gave up four hits and one walk.
In eight playoff games, the bullpen has given up three earned runs on 12 hits over 28 2/3 innings, with 32 strikeouts and three walks.
Before the game, Dave Roberts was asked about his transformation from player to wanting to become a manager.
“I think that I just love the game. I love to teach, I love the players,” he said. “Then you kind of start thinking about it, and your wife asks you how long you want to do this, and is this going to be it, and you say yes, then things change.”
The Cubs scored eight runs in five NLCS game, all by home runs. … Clayton Kershaw holds Dodgers postseason career records with 17 starts, 106 1/3 innings pitched and 122 strikeouts. He is tied with Burt Hooton for the most wins, with six. … The Dodgers have won 22 National League championships, one behind the San Francisco Giants’ record 23. … Forecast for Los Angeles, where World Series Games 1 and 2 will be played Tuesday and Wednesday: 101 degrees on Tuesday; 95 on Wednesday.
Hiserman reported from Los Angeles, Shaikin from Chicago.