Taylor's blunder, other missed chances put LA in NLCS hole
By GEORGE HENRY
ATLANTA (AP) If Chris Taylor could do it all over, he would've stopped at second base on Cody Bellinger's ninth-inning single.
He called it a bad read on the bases.
"As I was rounding second, I saw (right fielder Joc Pederson) get the ball sooner than I anticipated," Taylor said, "and I thought twice about not getting thrown out at third, and then he just threw it back behind me."
The Los Angeles Dodgers had trouble getting all the way around the bases throughout Saturday night's NL Championship Series opener. None stung quite like Taylor's blunder.
Taylor got caught in a rundown in the ninth, ending the Dodgers' last scoring chance before Austin Riley's game-ending RBI single in bottom of the inning lifted the Atlanta Braves to a 3-2 win.
The Dodgers were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position and stranded seven, leaving manager Dave Roberts to lament several missed chances.
"We just didn't get the hits when we needed them," Roberts said. "We just couldn't push enough runs across."
The most crushing of those blown opportunities came in the ninth.
Taylor drew a two-out walk off closer Will Smith, and Roberts called on 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger to pinch hit.
Despite a tough lefty-on-lefty matchup against Smith, Bellinger delivered a line-drive single to right-center, which should have easily moved Taylor into scoring position representing the go-ahead run.
Taylor took a hard turn around second before peeking back to Pederson - a former teammate - scooping up the ball and ready to unleash a throw. Taylor stopped and turned to go back to second, but that's where Pederson sent his throw, leaving the well-regarded Dodgers baserunner hung out to dry in a rundown finished by shortstop Dansby Swanson.
"It was just a bad read," Taylor said. "I saw it like barely got over (second baseman Ozzie) Albies' head and thought I could get to third and then I didn't realize Joc had it that quick and tried to stop and I should've kept going."
Added Braves third baseman Riley: "I thought if he would have kept going, he might have had a chance at third, I thought. But that was a great play by Dansby. Just being able to get out of that inning there was huge."
Among LA's other missed chances:
- Taylor reached on a bloop double in the seventh but was stranded at third when Mookie Betts popped up and Trea Turner struck out.
- Justin Turner singled in the sixth and advanced on a wild pitch and a groundout but was stranded at third, too, when AJ Pollock lined out.
- Reliever Tony Gonsolin singled in the fifth and advanced on Trea Turner's single but was stranded at second when Corey Seager struck out.
- Seager doubled in the first but never moved up as Braves starter Max Fried struck out Justin Turner to end the threat.
Runs have been at a premium for the Dodgers this postseason. They scored plenty of runs to win Games 2 and 4 of the NL Division Series but were shut out 4-0 in Game 1 against San Francisco and 1-0 in Game 3. Los Angeles rallied in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5 to squeak out a 2-1 victory.
Against the Braves, the Dodgers just couldn't get the big hit.
"I think we out hit them; they just outscored us, which is part of the game," Trea Turner said. "But when you have people on base, good things happen, just a matter of getting that one more hit and getting those hits with runners in scoring position. But offensively I thought we did a lot better job today than we did last series so that's something to build on, something to be positive about."
Blake Treinen relieved to begin the ninth and gave up a one-out bloop single to center field by Albies, who stole second. Riley, who homered off Gonsolin to tie it at 2-all in the fourth, drilled a tiebreaking single to left, and Albies easily scored to end it.
On Taylor's baserunning mistake, Albies thought Taylor was headed straight to third.
"To be honest with you, I thought he was going to be at third already once I jumped and the ball went over my head," Albies said. "When I turned around and I saw him halfway and he stopped I said, `OK, we got him.'"
Los Angeles will counter with ace Max Scherzer for Game 2 against Atlanta's Ian Anderson.
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Updated October 17, 2021