LOS ANGELES – Not so long ago, Chris Taylor’s season could be held at just the right angle and the most valuable player in the Dodgers, if not the entire National League, could be seen.
A lot can change in just over a month. Since August 2nd, Taylor’s on-base plus slugging percentage has fallen by nearly 100 points. He routinely hit the sixth or seventh place in the strike order. When the bottom of the Dodgers lineup fell during tough times, Taylor’s bat was more often part of the problem than the solution.
Taylor prevented Manny Machado from hitting a double home run with a jumping catch in midfield in the fifth inning. In the fourth inning, Taylor dived to catch a Wil Myers flyball in the left midfield gap. In the bottom of fourth, Taylor drove a run with a sacrificial fly and completed the goal with a 3-0 win over the San Diego Padres in front of an announced crowd of 48,403 at Dodger Stadium.
A double home run by Max Muncy brought the Dodgers onto the board in the third inning against Joe Musgrove (10-9). Taylor’s best efforts helped Julio Urías (17-3), Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen maintain the Dodgers’ 16th shutout of the season.
The win allowed the Dodgers (89-53) to hit a two-game losing streak and to keep up with the first-placed San Francisco Giants (91-50), who won five games in a row to take their lead in the national team to expand League West to 2½ games.
The Padres (74-66) have become a ghost in the playoff picture. They have lost four straight games to the Dodgers, all since the All-Star hiatus after winning the previous four head-to-head competitions.
Urías became the first pitcher to win 17 games by limiting San Diego to three hits in seven innings. He hit two thugs and issued a walk while hitting seven. His ERA fell to 2.98.
This time he needed help. Urías hadn’t tossed a curveball to Machado by the fifth inning when he ran a 1-and-0 count over the plate with a runner at first base.
« I think (Machado) sat in this place all night, » Urías said through an interpreter. “I think he made me do this pitch. When he met him, I thought he was going over the fence. It was a great piece by Chris. »
On his 94th pitch of the evening, Uría’s pinch hitter got Tommy Pham to fly into midfield to end the seventh inning. It was the deepest game Urias had plunged into a game since July 21st.
« He’s a front starter and if he takes baseball we expect to win, » said Roberts of Urias. « That he goes deep tonight shows his maturity. »
Treinen allowed Fernando Tatís Jr. and Ha-Seong Kim to play two singles before knocking out Wil Myers to finish the eighth inning. Jansen’s parade was his 10th in a row and his 31st overall ranking, tied for second place in the NL.
Kim replaced Jake Cronenworth, who left the game after being struck by an 88-mile move from Urias to the hand in the third inning. Manager Jayce Tingler told reporters after the game that Cronenworth suffered a small break in his ring finger.
The Dodgers only collected four hits against the six of the Padres. They made every hit count. Mookie Betts singled Musgrove just before Muncy hit a 91-mile tailor on his belt 428 feet to right field. The home run was Muncy’s 32nd of the season, tied with third place in the National League.
In the fourth inning, Will Smith doubled up and moved to third base on a wild pitch from Musgrove. Taylor’s flying ball with a high arc to left field was deep enough for Smith to step up and score with relative ease.
Taylor’s 72 RBIs this season are only Muncy and Justin Turner among the team leaders. On Friday, his worth to the Dodgers shone the brightest in defense.
Gavin Lux had his first career start in the left field and caught the only ball hit in his immediate vicinity early on. In the fourth inning, Myers’ flyball into the gap caused some trouble.
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Lux and Taylor began to approach in pursuit of the sinking baseball. Taylor hit the brakes, thinking of avoiding a last-minute collision just to look up and see Lux pull away. Taylor had to dive at the last second and catch a snow cone. Roberts called the snafu a « little communication thing » of Lux.
Roberts revealed that Taylor has recently been struggling with a neck condition – a built-in excuse for his battles for the record that the veteran failed to mention to the media.
It’s been four years since the Dodgers made Taylor, a middle infielder by trade, a skilled defender in most positions on the field. That was followed by the winter of 2016-17, when Taylor worked with current Dodgers trainer Robert Van Scoyoc to reshape his swing.
Now, Lux is able to embark on a similar career path – a better route than his convergent path that made a simple flyball an unwitting highlight on Friday.
« If he takes baseball, we expect to win. » Dave Roberts on Urías’ gig, Treinen’s 8th #Dodgers pic.twitter.com/SM4lvuiim8
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