LOS ANGELES — Cornered, desperate and with everything to lose, the Los Angeles Dodgers had everything the way they like it Thursday with their season on the line.
Chris Taylor allowed the Los Angeles Dodgers to survive another day, unloading with three home runs and six RBIs, as the Dodgers pulled off a decisive 11-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.
AJ Pollock added two home runs and drove in four, and seven Dodgers pitchers shut down the Braves, who still lead the best-of-seven series 3-2.
The Dodgers are 4-0 in elimination games this postseason and have won seven consecutive going back to 2020.
“For us, it’s always just about winning just one game,” Taylor said of the Dodgers’ clutch tendencies. “We have tried to keep that mentality all year and try to do everything we can to win tonight and take it from there.”
Taylor became just the 12th player in major league history to go deep three times in a playoff game.
He became the first player to hit three home runs in a postseason game since Enrique Hernandez did it for the Dodgers in Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Current Dodger Albert Pujols did it in the 2011 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It’s definitely surreal for me,” Taylor said. “I never thought I was going to hit three homers in a game, much less a postseason game. It still hasn’t really sunk in.”
Taylor, who went 4-for-5, struck out in the eighth inning in his bid for a fourth home run.
Freddie Freeman hit a two-run home run for the Braves, who have two more chances to advance to their first World Series since 1999. Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday in Atlanta, which would be the site of Game 7, if necessary, on Sunday.
The Braves also held a 3-1 NLCS lead on the Dodgers last season but failed to pull off one more victory. Los Angeles advanced and eventually won the World Series. The Braves have flamed out in the playoffs 12 times since last playing in the Fall Classic.
“It’s going to be the narrative every day it’s brought up so I don’t think we have a choice (to avoid it) until we kill that narrative,” Freeman said, when asked about the long wait between World Series appearances for the Braves. “But we’re up 3-2 and going home. It’s a great position to be in.”
Freeman’s first-inning home run came off Joe Kelly, who was opening a Dodgers bullpen game. Kelly did not finish the half-inning, leaving after 28 pitches due to a biceps strain, with Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts saying the right-hander is done for the remainder of the postseason.
The Dodgers answered in the second inning, first on a solo home run from Pollock. After a single by Pujols, Taylor gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead with a home run to left off Braves left-hander Max Fried.
Taylor boosted the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2 in the third inning with an RBI single. After Pujols walked in the fifth inning, ending Fried’s night, Taylor went deep again, this one to center field off right-hander Chris Martin.
Fried gave up five runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings with two walks and three strikeouts. It was just the second time the Braves lost a Fried start since the beginning of August, with the other coming Sept. 1 at Dodger Stadium.
“I felt great, it was just a really good, aggressive lineup that hit some pitches out over the middle,” Fried said. “I wasn’t executing on the corners like I normally do, and when you leave the balls over the middle, you give them a chance.”
Taylor’s third home run came in the seventh inning against left-hander Dylan Lee, as he became the first player to hit three home runs in an elimination game.
Pujols, 41, reached base three times, collecting two hits. Trea Turner, Cody Bellinger and Pollock each had three hits for Los Angeles.
“AJ kind of hitting that early homer right there gave us some life and then (Taylor) hit that two-run homer followed up with two more homers,” Roberts said. “You can’t always play for slug, but those guys stepped up big.”
Evan Phillips (1-0) tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings for the victory, and Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen each pitched two scoreless innings for Los Angeles.
–Doug Padilla, Field Level Media
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