LOS ANGELES — It will forever be known around these parts as the Chris Taylor Game.
The crowd of 51,363 chanted “CT3’’ throughout Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
They demanded a curtain call in the seventh inning.
They screamed his name every time he took the field.
It was the night Taylor saved the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season, the night the Dodgers staved off elimination for a magical seventh time, and the night Taylor will be etched forever in Dodger folklore.
Three home runs.
He was a one-man show, re-writing the record books, becoming the first player to hit three home runs in an elimination game, and only the 11th to perform the feat in any postseason game, joining the likes of Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and teammate Albert Pujols.
“This is why you play the game,’’ Taylor said following LA’s 11-2 rout of the Atlanta Braves. “When you look back on all the years playing for the Dodgers, it’s all these big postseason games that are the most special to me. I think these are moments that we’re going to be able to look back on for the rest of our lives and it’s pretty cool.
“It’s definitely a surreal feeling for me.’’
Taylor, of course, is the one responsible for the Dodgers’ season to even be playing. It was his two-run, walk-off homer against the St. Louis Cardinals in the wild game that propelled them to the NL Division Series. It was his baserunning blunder that was blamed for their loss against Atlanta in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Now, it’s his heroics that keep the Dodgers’ hopes alive of returning to the World Series.
“Everything gets amplified in the postseason,’’ Taylor softly said. “It’s a game of failures. You’re going to make mistakes. And then there’s moments like tonight where that’s what make it’s worth it.
“And that’s why you just like put your head down and keep moving forward.
The Dodgers still trail Atlanta 3-2 in this best-of-seven NLCS with Game 6 on Saturday at Truist Field.
But all that matters is they still have life, with Dodger Stadium shaking in awe.
“It was awesome, man, it really was,’’ Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger said. “I had the goosebumps sitting on deck. I had the best view, I think, for all three.
“I haven’t been that close in that situation ever before either, so it was pretty cool to see that and to hear the crowd, and understand what was at stake there.’’
Pujols, 41, can certainly relate. He hit three home runs for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, and he and Taylor are the only players in postseason history to hit three homers with at least four hits and six RBI in a game.
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“The highlights are going to be there the rest of his life,’’ Pujols said, “and that’s something that you’re going to share forever. A moment like this doesn’t happen every day. I mean, it’s hard to hit one home run in a game, imagine three, especially in the postseason.
“So, watching Chris doing that, it was pretty special.’’
Said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: “Seeing that he’s a part of history now is pretty remarkable. He’s in 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.’’
Really, the only one not getting caught up in the euphoria was the man of the hour.
Oh sure, Taylor thought it was cool.
He gets to tell his grandkids about it one day.
Maybe the bat will go to his trophy case.
But, as far as going wild, pumping his fists, dancing around the bases, and getting caught up with the sheer exhilaration, sorry, Taylor’s not your man.
“He’s very soft-spoken,’’ Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock said, impersonating his voice, “and doesn’t get easily excited. The only thing that excites him is that he likes to have a beer. He gets excited about that, a beer with the boys.
“And he loves watching surfing. …If there’s the World Surf Tour, if it’s on, it could be 6:00 in the morning and he’s on his phone watching. Loves it. Loves surfing.’’
How about the love of being a Dodger hero with one of the greatest games in franchise history, hitting 1,209 feet of homers off three different pitchers?
“The three home runs today might have spiked his adrenaline,’’ says Pollock, “but probably not. Most likely, just the beer and watching surfing.’’
Pollock hit two home runs himself, allowing Taylor and himself to become only the third pair of teammates to have a multi-homer postseason, joining Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig of the Yankees, along with Fernando Tatis and Wil Myers of the Padres.
Perhaps one day Taylor will share that same excitement, but not now, knowing that if the Dodgers fall short of the World Series, it will be nothing more than a forgotten footnote.
The Dodgers, who a year ago came back from a 3-games-to-1 deficit to stun Atlanta in the NLCS, are now trying to stage an encore for the ages, with the narrative already ringing from Los Angeles throughout the Deep South.
“It’s going to be the narrative because every day it’s brought up,’’ said Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman, whose two-run homer in the first inning was long forgotten with Taylor’s heroics. “So, I don’t think we have a choice until we kill that narrative.’’
The Dodgers and Atlanta, with two fatigued pitching staffs, are scheduled to fly to Atlanta on Friday with Game 6 on Saturday. Three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer will be on the mound for Los Angeles, and the guy who was ridiculed for his baserunning mistake when the Dodgers left town, now will the villain for being the one to keep them around.
“It’s one of the happier flights I’ve been looking forward to,’’ Roberts said. “It’s going to be a crazy environment in Atlanta. We know that.
“I guess when our backs are against the wall, we play our best and fight, but that’s just not an ideal spot to be in, even right now, elimination on Game 6.’’
But, without Taylor’s glorious performance, instead of a wall, there would be a couch, where the 2021 Dodgers had come home to rest.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Chris Taylor etches name in Dodgers’ folklore with historic night