Dodgers defeat St. Louis in walk-off

Chris Taylor's two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth lifted Los Angeles past St. Louis in their National League Wild Card round. The 3-1 thriller sends the Dodgers into the divisional round against San Francisco, and ends the Cardinals' season.



October 7, 2021 - 9:40 AM

Los Angeles left fielder Chris Taylor hits the game-winning two-run home run during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals Wednesday in the National League Wild Card game. Photo by Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / TNS

LOS ANGELES (AP) — One big swing by Chris Taylor sent the Los Angeles Dodgers soaring and the St. Louis Cardinals crashing.

Taylor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Dodgers a 3-1 victory Wednesday night in a scintillating NL wild-card game. 

Justin Turner homered early and the 106-win Dodgers advanced to a best-of-five Division Series against the NL West champion Giants, who won 107 games to barely hold off rival Los Angeles for the division title. Game 1 is Friday night in San Francisco.

“That’s gonna be fun. Yeah, two of the best regular-season records of all-time. We’ve been battling all year, so I expect a hard-fought series,” Taylor said.

The Dodgers celebrated on the field before heading into their clubhouse to continue the party. Champagne and beer were poured over the heads of shirtless, goggle-wearing players, thrilled to have stayed alive for a shot at their Bay Area adversary.

“One of the great rivalries in sports,” Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s happening.”

The sellout crowd of 53,193 at Dodger Stadium hung on every pitch as the tension of a tie game built from the fourth inning on. Fans waved blue towels, futilely urging on the few balls launched into the outfield only to see them caught in a winner-take-all matchup between two of the National League’s most storied and successful franchises.

The crowd was on its feet in the ninth, anxiously waiting to see if the defending World Series champions could pull out a must-have win. Cody Bellinger got the Dodgers started when he drew a two-out walk from T.J. McFarland. Alex Reyes entered to face Taylor, and Bellinger stole second. 

“That’s huge, knowing I don’t have to do too much,” said Taylor, batting in the No. 9 slot after entering to play left field as part of a double switch in the seventh. “It kind of settled me down a little bit.”

Taylor then sent a 2-1 breaking ball into the left field pavilion, triggering an explosion of cheers and ending an October struggle that lasted 4 hours, 15 minutes.

The versatile veteran struggled in September because of a recurring neck injury, and he came off the bench in the Dodgers’ most important game of the season.

“Honestly, I was just trying to hit a single,” Taylor said after launching the fourth game-ending homer in Dodgers postseason history. “He gave me a good slider to hit and I was able to get it up in the air.”

It was the fifth walk-off home run in a winner-take-all postseason game, after Pittsburgh’s Bill Mazeroski in the 1960 World Series, the Yankees’ Chris Chambliss in the 1976 AL Championship Series and Aaron Boone in the 2003 ALCS, and Toronto’s Edwin Encarnación in the 2016 AL wild-card game.

Taylor also made a nifty defensive play in the eighth, robbing Edmundo Sosa of a hit for the second out.

Tommy Edman dropped a one-out single into right off closer Kenley Jansen in the top of the ninth and stole second. Paul Goldschmidt took a called third strike and Tyler O’Neill went down swinging to end the threat. Edman went 3 for 5 with a run scored.