AJ Pollock and Albert Pujols help rejuvenate Dodgers’ offense in Game 5 win
AJ Pollock took a vicious swing at a Jacob Webb fastball, dropped his bat in the box and stood like a statue for a second or three while his three-run blast sailed into the left-center field pavilion in Chavez Ravine on Thursday night.
There was plenty to admire about his 407-foot drive, which put the finishing touches on the Dodgers’ 11-2 rout of the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, and with the postseason Pollock had been having, he wanted savor every moment of it.
“Yeah, it’s fun,” said Pollock, whose playoff struggles landed him on the bench for the previous two games. “We take so many swings and we’re working so hard, so when something goes right, it’s a fun thing. And C.T. was getting me jealous, hitting multiple homers, so … it motivated me.”
Chris Taylor, the hero of the Dodgers’ wild-card win, transformed the team from playoff zombies to NLCS-winning hopefuls with his three-home run game.
C.T., of course, is Chris Taylor, who hit three homers and drove in six runs to lead a 17-hit attack that gave the Dodgers their seventh straight win in an elimination game.
But Pollock teamed with part-time first baseman Albert Pujols to give a sagging offense a much-needed boost from the bench. Pollock knocked in the Dodgers’ first run with a solo homer in the second, he singled and scored in the third and capped his night with his three-run shot.
Pujols, making his third start of the postseason against Braves ace Max Fried, singled sharply to left in the second, singled to right-center in the third and walked in the fifth, all three plate appearances contributing to run-scoring rallies to help send the series back to Atlanta with the Braves leading three games to two.
Dodgers players Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Albert Pujols, AJ Pollock and manager Dave Roberts talk about the offense waking up in NLCS Game 5.
“It’s a great moment tonight, but we need to flip the page and continue to do this on Saturday,” Pujols said. “I think if we lose [Game 6] you look at this game and say it’s just another game that you win. So our goal is to continue to push this series and hopefully go to Game 7, and all eggs are on the table.”
The Dodgers entered Thursday with a .231 team average, .661 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, nine homers and 14 doubles in 10 playoff games.
They scored 35 runs, an average of 3.5 a game, and hit .221 (17 for 77) with runners in scoring position, their impotent offense pushing them to the brink of elimination.
Unpredictable NLCS swings back with the Dodgers now in control of their World Series destiny, writes columnist Dylan Hernández.
The Dodgers were already playing without Max Muncy, who had a team-leading 36 homers, 94 RBIs and 83 walks before suffering a dislocated left elbow in the regular-season finale.
Then Justin Turner, a career .275 hitter with an .846 OPS, 13 homers and 42 RBIs in 82 playoff games, suffered a season-ending hamstring strain Wednesday night.
“Not having him in the lineup makes it a lot harder,” right fielder Mookie Betts said before the game. “But we also can’t sit here and cry about it. We still have a game to play. We have to let the next guy step up, and he has to do his job.”
Taylor did the heavy lifting Thursday night, but he had plenty of help. Trea Turner, who entered with a .182 average, .409 OPS, one run, one RBI, 11 strikeouts and no walks in 10 playoff games, and Cody Bellinger each had three hits, Turner adding an RBI and a run.
Pollock, the 41-year-old Pujols and Taylor set the tone early, the trio combining to go seven for eight with three homers and six RBIs in the first five innings.
Chris Taylor hits three home runs and drives in six runs to spearhead the Dodgers’ 11-2 season-sustaining win over the Atlanta Braves in NLCS Game 5.
Pollock (.297, 21 homers, 69 RBIs) was a consistent run-producer during the regular season, but he cooled this month as he has in many Octobers, his six-for-26 start (.231) dropping his career playoff average to .191 with one homer and nine RBIs in 32 games.
Pollock’s struggles landed him on the bench for Games 4 and 5 of the division series against San Francisco and Games 3 and 4 of the NLCS.
But he was back in the lineup Thursday night, and his leadoff homer in the second, which was followed by a Pujols single and a Taylor homer, wiped out the 2-0 lead the Braves had built on Freddie Freeman’s first-inning homer.
“We needed guys to come up big,” Pollock said. “We got down two runs early in a game like that where we could have gone flat, and I think it just pretty much says what kind of fight we have on this team.”
Pollock singled with one out in the third, took third on Pujols’ single to right-center and scored on Taylor’s bloop single for a 4-2 lead. Pujols walked with two outs ahead of Taylor’s fifth-inning homer, which made it 6-2.
Evan Phillips played a key role in the Dodgers overcoming a potential disaster when Joe Kelly was injured. He also did something special for Andy Burns.
“Whether I’m in the postseason or regular season … I don’t take anything for granted,” said Pujols, a surefire Hall of Famer in his 21st season. “I take my at-bats, I take my game like it’s the last game of my career.
“I think I can see the same attitude of these guys every day. They go out there and they don’t take anything for granted. We take every at-bat, every pitch, every play like it’s our last play, and I think that’s why you have success.”
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