ATLANTA – The loneliest man in Truist Park on Saturday wandered from the dugout to his spot in center field in the bottom of the ninth inning. He looked at his feet, the ground, his glove. It was not until he was close that it occurred to him to put on his hat.
Chris Taylor was bareheaded because a minute earlier, he had hit the ground with his batting helmet after spoiling the Dodgers’ best chance of winning Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. Instead, Atlanta walked away with a 3-2 victory.
Taylor had almost called a rally. With two outs in the top of the ninth, he threw a curve ball and then took four balls in a row from Atlanta’s left-hander Will Smith. Next was the pitcher’s spot in the order, followed by the team’s best hitter, Mookie Betts.
With no right-handed hitters on the bench, manager Dave Roberts sent left-hander Cody Bellinger, who hit .116 against left-handers this season. Smith moved a slider, low and out. Bellinger took it. Smith threw another, right in the outer corner. Bellinger went through it. Smith tried again. Bellinger grabbed this and aligned it gently over the head of jumping second baseman Ozzie Albies. There should be runners on first and second with two outs for Betts.
But Taylor got greedy. He charged past the second and headed for the third. Right fielder Joc Pederson, pearl necklace flapping, put the ball in with a glove. Taylor changed her mind. He tried to go back to the second one, but stumbled. Anyway, it was too late; Pederson had shot the second.
Albies was surprised to find Taylor between bases. okay, he thought. We have it. Taylor tried the third. Albies pitched third baseman Austin Riley, who chased Taylor back to second and finally threw the ball to shortstop Dansby Swanson. Taylor tried to turn to third. Swanson almost tripped over him when he applied the tag to him. Entrance more. “F — yes!” shouted Smith.
Taylor muttered a similar word as he collapsed to the ground. He allowed himself to burn with frustration as he returned to the dugout to pick up his hat and glove, and then onto center field.
Afterward, he stood outside the Dodgers clubhouse and spoke quietly. “A bad read,” he said simply. “I saw that Albies was barely losing his mind and I thought he could get to third position and I didn’t realize that Joc did it so fast, and [I] I tried to stop myself, and I should have moved on. ”In hindsight, he added, he wished he had stopped at the second.
Roberts agreed. “I think according to the book it probably should have stayed,” he said. “I think it was hit lightly. It was a bit towards the gap, so I felt like I thought I had read that right. It is one of those where you have to choose. Either you’re going to go hard, and I don’t know if Joc would have thrown to third right there and just conceded that base, or just hang on and two outs and give Mookie a shot. But I think right there I was caught in the middle. That’s when you get in trouble. “
When Riley singled to the Albies in the bottom of the ninth to finish it off, Taylor was the last Dodger to bench.
You have much more experience on the other side of this feeling. He hit the lead single in Game 2 of the 2017 NLDS, against the Diamondbacks. He homered for the lead in Game 1 of the 2017 National League Championship Series against the Cubs; three days later, he hit a triple and a home run in Game 3. He started Game 1 of the 2017 World Series, against the Astros, with a home run. Seven days later, he hit the game-tying double and sent the Series to Game 7. In Game 2 of the 2018 National League Championship Series, against the Brewers, he singled and scored the tying run. Less than two weeks ago, he entered the National League wild-card game against the Cardinals in the seventh inning, and in his second at-bat he hit a home run.
“These are the kind of moments you dream of and live for, and to be able to look back for the rest of my life,” he said after that game.
Saturday proved the other extreme of that deal. You can’t have moments like this without opening up to moments like this.
The Dodgers, who won 18 more regular-season games than Atlanta, remain big favorites in this series. This was always the game Atlanta was most likely to win: Atlanta started its ace on Saturday, while Los Angeles, which had used Game 1 projected starter Max Scherzer to close out Game 5 of the NLDS, managed a reliever combination. Still, this was a missed opportunity to steal a victory.
Taylor later said that none of his teammates had tried to comfort him. “I’m fine,” he insisted. Then he turned and walked alone through the tunnel.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.