Chris Taylor grand slam helps power Dodgers to victory over Orioles

Dodgers' Chris Taylor follows through on a swing against the Baltimore Orioles.
Dodgers’ Chris Taylor follows through on a swing against the Baltimore Orioles on Monday in Baltimore. The Dodgers won 6-4.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)
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Bryan Baker threw fastball after fastball after fastball.

Each time, Chris Taylor fouled his upper-90s heaters out of play.

With the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth inning, Taylor’s swing was on time against the Baltimore Orioles right-hander. But, getting fastballs on three of the at-bat’s first four pitches, he sent each one backward, just a little off from connecting with his swing.


On pitch No. 5, Baker stuck with the plan. In an 0-and-2 count, he fired another fastball at the upper outside corner.

This time, however, Taylor caught it on the barrel, launching a no-doubt grand slam to left-center field.

“He just keeps coming up with big hits,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s just kind of his hallmark.”

Indeed, Taylor’s blast made all the difference in the Dodgers 6-4 win over the Orioles on Monday, turning a two-run Dodgers deficit into an insurmountable two-run lead.

It was Taylor’s 10th career grand slam, and fourth tying or go-ahead home run in the sixth inning or later in a game this year.

The Dodgers are shut down for seven innings by Max Scherzer, then lose in 2-1 in 10 innings on a pinch-hit double by Luis Guillorme.

July 16, 2023

More importantly, it offered a potentially promising sign that Taylor, who battled injuries and swing issues during the first half of the campaign, is still capable of a midseason turnaround.


“When I can get to the high fastball, I know I’m in a good place,” Taylor said. “Yeah, right now I feel pretty good.”

Taylor couldn’t say the same entering the All-Star break, when he was batting .206 before a three-week injured list stint because of a right knee injury.

The time away from the field, however, was good for the 32-year-old veteran, who has mostly struggled since signing a four-year, $60 million contract extension two offseasons ago.

“Even though I was on the IL, I was able to swing the whole time and work on some stuff,” he said. “You never want to be down, but it was probably good for me to get a chance to work on something knowing you don’t have to compete that night.”

Since being activated at the start of this trip, though, Taylor has made several key contributions.

He saved a potential tying run defensively in New York on Saturday, added a pinch-hit double Sunday, then started for the first time since returning Monday, punctuating a five-run sixth inning for the Dodgers (54-39) that helped end the Orioles’ eight-game winning streak.


Trailing 4-1 after a bumpy five-inning start from Emmet Sheehan, the Dodgers started their comeback on a triple from Freddie Freeman, one of three hits that left him a homer short of the cycle.

Will Smith plated Freeman with a single in the next at-bat. Then, Max Muncy and Jason Heyward (who was back in the lineup a day after suffering a neck stinger) drew walks in full counts, loading the bases for Taylor with two outs.

Baker immediately attacked Taylor with high heat, the type of pitch that earlier this season Taylor “wasn’t getting to,” Roberts said. “There was no contact. There was a lot of swing and miss there.”

Dodgers' Freddie Freeman waits for a pitch from the Baltimore Orioles.
Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman waits for a pitch from the Baltimore Orioles during the ninth inning on Monday in Baltimore.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

Taylor changed that with his 416-foot blast, giving him 12 home runs and 30 RBI on the season.

“When we need him most,” Roberts said, “he always finds a way to come through.”

Up 6-4 with 12 outs to get, the Dodgers bullpen did the same against the Orioles (57-36).

Yency Almonte, Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson handled the sixth, seventh and eighth — a trio of relievers who all struggled earlier this season suddenly starting to find their stride.


Then, with Evan Phillips and Brusdar Graterol unavailable after pitching the previous two days, veteran Ryan Brasier was summoned for the ninth.

Signed as a reclamation project earlier this season, following his release from the Boston Red Sox, the 35-year-old has found new life with the Dodgers, using a newly added cutter to post a 1.59 ERA in his first 10 appearances with the team.

Monday’s outing got off to a rocky start. Facing a full-count to the inning’s first batter, Brasier asked for a new baseball too late in the pitch clock (MLB’s rules stipulate that must happen before the timer reaches nine seconds). Umpires assessed him a violation, leading to an automatic ball and dangerous leadoff walk.

“Basically, I should have just called timeout and it wouldn’t have been an issue,” Brasier said. “Obviously you get frustrated, but it was my fault. There’s nothing you can really say or do about it. It is the rule.”

In the end, it proved not to matter. Shortstop Miguel Rojas turned a difficult double play in the next at-bat, then Brasier got a fly out to end the game.

“That was a really good team win for us,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s season hasn’t turned completely yet. He is still batting just .214 and striking out about one-third of the time.


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July 17, 2023

Roberts said the team will be “very mindful” of Taylor’s knee injury, too, likely to manage his workload for at least the near term.

Still, just weeks after saying the team could use another right-handed bat before the trade deadline, the manager started changing his tune Monday, hopeful that Taylor’s performance in recent days will ultimately prove to be an auspicious sign.

“Talking to him, he’s pleasantly surprised how his knee is responding,” Roberts said. “Having him back, performing, having the utility that he does have, it’s very helpful.”