Commentary: Repeat L.A.? Dodgers spark hope that another ring is possible
James Worthy and Robert Horry appeared on the Dodger Stadium video board in the minutes before Wednesday’s wild-card game, talking about the “Beat L.A.” chants they heard in their days with the Lakers.
For their first postseason game as defending World Series champions, the Dodgers proposed a twist.
“Maybe it’s time for Dodger fans to jump on the bandwagon with a version of their own,” the announcer urged. He called it “our new rally.”
For the first time in two years, postseason baseball returned to Dodger Stadium. After seven straight Octobers that ended in defeat, and after one pandemic October that ended in Texas, this postseason started with hope of a second consecutive championship, this one in front of the home fans.
In front of a crowd announced at 53,193 — the largest in the major leagues this season — the Dodgers presented an evening of thrills and chills, drama and tension. The stadium roared, the crowd stood, and the teams delivered a game for the ages.
The Dodgers are bound for San Francisco. The Giants have 107 wins. The Dodgers have 107. Bring it on.
Repeat L.A.? Could happen.
Repeat this drama? Yes, please, if we can.
The October Dodgers are back and will now meet those gawd-awful San Francisco Giants in a postseason series for the first time in the teams’ 131-year rivalry.
Justin Turner saw it coming. He did not really know how, or when. But, as he stood next to Trea Turner during pregame introductions, the red-haired Turner told the other that he would not really experience Dodger Stadium until 50,000 people were rocking, swaying, screaming at a postseason game.
Nine innings later, we got the Chris Taylor Experience.
Dave Roberts saw it coming, even before the game. He did not really know how, or when. Taylor earned All-Star honors in the first half, but he started Wednesday’s wild-card playoff on the bench.
“We’re gonna need him,” Roberts said before the game.
“I can’t predict what spot, whether it’s putting a bunt down or taking an at-bat, playing defense. I do know that he’s one of my favorite players.”
Max Scherzer saw it coming. As he chatted with Joe Kelly in the Dodgers dugout, with the home team one out from extra innings, Scherzer said he told Kelly that Cody Bellinger would get on base and Taylor would hit a walk-off home run. “I had that vision for him,” Scherzer said. “Right man for the right spot.”
Spot on. The only other walk-off home runs in Dodgers postseason history: Max Muncy, to end an 18-inning game in the 2018 World Series; Justin Turner, in the 2017 National League Championship Series; and, yeah, Kirk Gibson in the 1988 World Series.
“These are the type of moments you dream about and you live for,” Taylor said. “I’ll be able to look back on this for the rest of my life.”
This was for this city, and this crowd. The Dodger Stadium video board showed the clubhouse celebration live. When Roberts called for Taylor, and his teammates doused him in alcohol, the clubhouse erupted. So did the fans.
Bellinger, who reached base three times, drew a two-out walk in the ninth. He stole second base. Then came Taylor, who had entered the game as part of a double switch.
Walk-off home run? Not really the plan.
“Honestly, I was just trying to hit a single,” Taylor said, “not try to do too much. He gave me a good slider to hit, and I was able to get it up in the air.
“I was trying to keep things small; think small, big things happen, and, yeah, that felt good.”
Taylor’s production crashed in the second half. He hit .277 with an .834 OPS before the All-Star break, .223 with a .709 OPS after the break, .121 with a .402 OPS in the final month of the regular season.
Chris Taylor’s two-run homer in the ninth lifts the Dodgers to a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL wild-card game.
His 2021 season can now be remembered, happily, with one swing.
When the Dodgers acquired Taylor five years ago, he was an unheralded minor league shortstop. Now he stands alongside Gibson in Dodgers lore.
The Dodgers remained alive. So did their dream of a parade — the pandemic stole last year’s — and our dream too.
Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was in the house Wednesday.
The Dodgers had their Magic. The Cardinals their devil magic.
It’s winnin’ time. L.A. Magic for the win, and we’ll see you in San Francisco.
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