Los Angeles Dodgers

Chris Taylor's Three Homers Help Dodgers Avoid Elimination, Blowout Braves 11-2 in Game 5 of NLCS

Chris Taylor hit three homers, AJ Pollock hit two, and the Los Angeles Dodgers avoided elimination, blowing out the Atlanta Braves 11-2 in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

Chris Taylor #3 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning during Game 5 of the NLCS between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium on Thursday, October 21, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

When Justin Turner reached down towards his left hamstring, screaming in agonizing pain while running to first base in Game 4, it was a series-changing moment.

Unbeknownst to all, it would turn out to be a season-saving moment for the Dodgers.

Turner was ruled out for the remainder of the playoffs, and Chris Taylor started at third base in his place in Game 5. With his team trailing by a run, Taylor put the Dodgers on his back, and continued the momentum created when his team is facing elimination.

Taylor hit a go-ahead home run in the second inning, another in the fifth, and a third in the seventh, as the Los Angeles Dodgers came from behind to blowout the Atlanta Braves, 11-2, in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"I think for us it's always just been about winning one game and we try to keep that mentality all year, do everything we can to win tonight, and just sort of take it one day at a time," said Taylor about the season-saving victory for the Dodgers.

The Braves still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, but the night that will go down in Dodgers lore as the "Chris Taylor Game."

"CT [Chris Taylor], he's just that guy that he's just in the moment," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts. "He's in the moment. He's fighting, and he can hit the flare with guys on second base with two outs with the best of them and drive in a run and he can also get the head out and hit a homer. So for him to hit three home runs, I couldn't be happier and we needed him. He's locked in."

The series now shifts back to Atlanta for Game 6 on Saturday night. Ian Anderson is expected to start for the Braves with the Dodgers giving the ball to three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer with their season on the line again.

"That's one of the happier flights I've been looking forward to," said Roberts about returning to Atlanta on Friday. "I expected our guys to fight and scratch and claw and I thought we did that and it's going to be a crazy environment in Atlanta. So our backs are against the wall and I don't expect a letdown."

A.J. Pollock sandwiched his two homers around Taylor's, but it was the utility player's power display that electrified the 51,363 in attendance and kept the reigning champions from going down without a fight in their quest to become the first team to repeat since the New York Yankees in 2000.

Taylor became the first player in MLB playoff history to have three home runs in a potential elimination game, and the first Dodgers player to have three home runs in a postseason game since Kiké Hernandez did it in the clinching Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs. Taylor's season-high six RBI was shy of the franchise record of seven set by Hernandez in that same game.

"Reggie [Jackson] hit three in the World Series. Kiké [Hernandez] did it," said Roberts of other players he remembers having three home runs in a postseason game. "But for me being a Chris Taylor fan and seeing that he's a part of history now is pretty remarkable and for us to be here to watch that in person, he just does things the right way, he really does and he's in a class, an elite class of very few. So when you're talking about Gil Hodges, Duke Snider, these guys that didn't do it, it's pretty remarkable."

Including the Wild Card game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Taylor now has four home runs and nine RBI when the Dodgers are facing elimination in the 2021 postseason.

Seven relievers combined to surrender just two runs in nine innings, with beleaguered closer Kenley Jansen pitching a scoreless ninth to seal the Dodgers seventh straight victory when facing elimination dating back to last season.

"Our bullpen kind of falls in the shadow, but they did an unbelievable job," said Dodgers' first baseman Albert Pujols. "You have some people that have bullpen games and they're not confident about it. That's not us, we were very confident in our bullpen. They have done so many bullpen games this year and completely just won the game for us. So we knew they were going to keep it close."

The start of the game could not have gone anymore disastrous for the Dodgers.

Joe Kelly was announced as the "starting pitcher," and after retiring the red-hot Eddie Rosario on a loud out to right field, he got beaten by a swinging bunt down the third base line by Ozzie Albies. Three pitches later, Freddie Freeman put the Braves in front when he clobbered a curveball into the right field pavilion for a two-run homer.

After starting the NLCS 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts, Freeman went 6-for-9 with two home runs, a double, and four RBI in his next nine plate appearances.

"It seems like this whole series we've been switching off games here, winning late, they win late, we score a lot yesterday, they score a lot today. That's just how it's been going," said Freeman. "It's two good teams going at it and this is kind of what we figured."

Kelly would only last one more batter as he left the game with tightness in his right bicep and won't pitch again this postseason.

"Going back to the dugout I'm just trying to think about how we're going to piece eight innings together," said Roberts of Kelly having to leave the game with an injury. "I feel very bad for Joe because he's done so much for us and so for him to not be able to see this thing through this year is very disappointing."

Evan Phillips entered the game and muzzled the Braves for the next four outs, before handing the ball off to Alex Vesia, Brusdar Graterol, and Blake Treinen who combined for the next five shutout innings.

"For Evan to take the baseball in that spot and take down that part of the lineup and put the fire out, that let us catch our breath a little bit," said Roberts of Phillips taking over for Kelly. "But each guy that came in, I mean I can go on and on about each guy and they were just all fantastic. Obviously, what Brusdar did, what Blake [Treinen] and [Alex] Vesia did. All the guys were just fantastic. So to have Kenley even take down an inning in a plus-plus game, that's kind of where we were at and he was our most rested reliever. So for him to be a teammate and take down that 9th was huge and puts us in a good spot for Game 6."

The game changed in the bottom of the second inning. Pollock led off with a solo shot that cut the Braves lead in half.

 "AJ hitting the homer right there kind of gave us some life," said Roberts.

With new found life, Albert Pujols followed with a line drive single to left field and then Taylor swung at a first-pitch fastball from Atlanta ace Max Fried that landed in the back of the Dodgers bullpen. Suddenly, the Dodgers had taken a 3-2 lead, and would never look back.

"I wasn't thinking too much," said Taylor of his two-run homer off Fried. "I'm in a pretty good spot right now and when you're feeling good I think it's more just see the ball, hit the ball."

Taylor provided an insurance run an inning later when he scored Pollock on an RBI single to centerfield that gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. Through the first two times through the lineup, Pollock, Pujols, and Taylor were a combined 6-for-6 with two home runs and four RBI.

"You can look at CT, AJ, Albert, those guys are middle of the order guys on any team," said Roberts of the back of his lineup on Thursday. "And so where we place them to add length to our club, our offense, I expect performance out of those guys and they're very good ball players."

At 41 years old, Pujols became the oldest player with multiple multi-hit games in a single postseason since Jorge Posada did it with the New York Yankees in 2011.

Taylor hit his second home run in the bottom of the fifth inning off right-hander Chris Martin to centerfield that extended the lead to 6-2.

"Mechanically, I'm in a good place, and then once you get a couple hits and the confidence is there, that's when everything just kind of comes together," said Taylor.

Just for good measure, he hit his third in the bottom of the seventh inning off Dylan Lee for a 7-2 lead.

"It's cool," said Taylor about hitting three home runs in a playoff game and joining some elite company. "It's definitely surreal feeling for me. I never thought I was going to hit three homers in a game, let alone a postseason game, and it just still hasn't really sunk in."

Taylor received a curtain call and standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd.

"That was my first one," Taylor said of the curtain call and the fans chanting 'CT3.' "I think any time you do something cool, when you do it in Dodger Stadium, it makes it that much sweeter. I think this is a special place and these fans are awesome and for it to happen for the first time on this stage in front of these, this crowd, it was a special moment."

Pollock completed the five-homer night for the Dodgers in the bottom of the eighth with his second of the night, a no-doubt three-run blast that opened the floodgates.

"CT was getting me jealous," joked Pollock. "Multiple homers, so I -- it motivated me."

The Dodgers would go on to score 11 runs on 17 hits in a blowout of the Braves in Game 5.

Thanks to the offensive eruption, the Dodgers' season is still alive.