CHICAGO — The Dodgers sure get a kick out of changing a mediocre player’s swing and discovering hitting gold.
One year ago at this time, Chris Taylor was working with Dodgers hitting consultant Robert Van Scoyoc on adding a leg kick.
Justin Turner isn’t the only Dodger that turned around his career with such a move.
Taylor started this season at Triple-A but like Turner he has become an October savior. This is an L.A. story of baseball resurgence.
Taylor moved from center field to shortstop Tuesday night and delivered a monstrous solo home run to break a 1-1 tie in the third and a run-scoring triple in the fifth as the Dodgers behind Yu Darvish put the defending world champs on life support, whipping the Cubs 6-1 at Wrigley Field to take a 3-0 lead in the NLCS.
“It takes a lot of confidence in yourself and trust to see yourself as a marginal major league player,’’ Dave Roberts explained. “But to take a chance on trying to learn a new swing and bet on yourself, and that’s what he did. He committed to it. We saw early in spring training that he was a different hitter. He’s an impact player.’’
The Dodgers have yet to lose a postseason game (6-0) this October and will go to the World Series for the first time since 1988 with a win Wednesday. Imagine if the Yankees can continue their amazing comeback against the Astros — a Dodgers-Yankees World Series would be something to see.
No one saw the year that Aaron Judge is having coming and no one could envision what Taylor has accomplished this season for the Dodgers.
The tall tales of October continue.
Said Taylor of the change, “I didn’t know what to expect. I knew I had to make that drastic change and get out of my comfort zone. To say I expected it to happen as fast as it did, I’d be lying. In spring training I was pretty shocked to see the results that fast.’’
Noted Andre Ethier, who homered in the second to tie the game at 1-1, “Chris was willing to push himself to the next level.’’
Taylor, 27, was one of those under-the-radar moves the Dodgers specialize in, trading pitcher Zach Lee to the Mariners in mid-June of 2016. He was a fifth-round pick for the Mariners in the 2012 draft. In parts of three seasons and 256 plate appearances with the Mariners, the slight (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) Taylor never hit a home run.
This past season he hit 21. In the NLCS he already has hit two home runs, the first Dodger with two game-winning home runs in the same
postseason series since Dusty Baker in 1977. Daniel Murphy was the last major league player to do that in 2015 with the Mets.
No one could have predicted any of this.
When Corey Seager went down at shortstop the Dodgers were in a world of hurt but look where they are now on the brink of finally going back to the World Series. The Cubs appeared to have the infield advantage. Not so once the games started.
The first two games Charlie Culberson was at short and Taylor was in center. The Dodgers are a versatile team and Taylor fits right in with that game plan. It’s important to have players who can make adjustments.
Taylor became the first player in postseason history to hit a home run as a center fielder and a shortstop.
The Dodgers have developed players who fit the flexible mold of what they are looking for and Taylor said he followed the mold of Turner to really develop his leg kick. Turner took that big swing and drove a three-run walk-off home run to win Game 2 at Dodger Stadium, a blast to center field.
Taylor unloaded in much the same way Tuesday night, driving a Kyle Hendricks’ fastball deep into center, a long, long way over the ivy, a 444-foot shot, the longest home run of the postseason according to Statcast.
Chris Taylor and the Dodgers are ready for the next big leg kick.