Home News Chris Taylor’s homer lifts Dodgers to win over Pirates

Chris Taylor’s homer lifts Dodgers to win over Pirates

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PITTSBURGH — As his early season struggles continued, Chris Taylor decided to make his way across the bridge in Pittsburgh in order to get some work in at a vacant PNC Park during the Dodgers’ off day on Monday. 

Coming to the ballpark was optional for players, but Taylor, amidst those struggles, wanted to make sure he was getting even more reps at the plate. That extra work ended up paying off in a big way. 

Taylor was rewarded by delivering the biggest hit of his 2023 season, launching a go-ahead three-run homer to help the Dodgers complete a five-run comeback in the 8-7 win over the Pirates on Tuesday at PNC Park. 

“As we all know, he’s been trying to grind through some things. He’s been struggling. But when he’s up there, you always feel that something good is going to happen because of his work and preparation,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I thought he swung the ball really well tonight. That was a big hit and gave us a big boost.”

Taylor came into Tuesday’s game with four homers but just five hits in 45 at-bats this season. His strikeout rate was also through the roof as the infielder struck out 21 times in his first 16 games of the season. This, of course, follows a frustrating ‘22 season for Taylor in which he was limited to just 118 games and a .677 OPS, his lowest in a full season since joining the Dodgers in ‘16. 

When he got to the ballpark on Tuesday, Taylor said he was still “grinding” through some mechanical things. He felt good following Monday’s workout, but it didn’t translate onto the field like he would’ve liked during batting practice. But in his first at-bat, Taylor was able to reach on a dropped fly ball by center fielder Ji Hwan Bae, giving Taylor some confidence despite it being an error. 

“I sort of tried to keep it as simple as I can — stay inside the ball, start early,” Taylor said. “I had that fortunate hit that fell in, and once you start getting hits, you sort of relax a little bit. The tension frees up, and everything slows down.”

In his second at-bat, Taylor was able to bloop a single into the outfield. The following inning, Taylor singled for the second time in the game. Taylor had just one single in his first 16 games of the season. 

With some added confidence, Taylor came up in a key spot in the eighth inning. With two on and one out, Taylor was facing right-hander Colin Holderman, who hadn’t given up a homer over 35 big league appearances. But after falling behind 2-0 in the count, Holderman left one out over the plate, and Taylor jumped on it, crushing a no-doubter into the left-field seats.

“Sometimes you put so much pressure, and there’s just that added tension because you want to get a hit so bad. You want to come through so bad,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to perform that way. Once you get a hit, everything just kind of eases. It kind of reminds you that you’re not in as deep a hole as you think you are.”

After four innings, the Dodgers were in a pretty deep hole, however. Starter Noah Syndergaard didn’t have much of his stuff, and the Pirates ran while on the bases, a concerning weakness in the right-hander’s game. Syndergaard allowed seven runs on nine hits over four innings, exiting the game with the Dodgers trailing 7-2. His season ERA is now 6.58 through five starts. 

Over the following innings, the Dodgers chipped away. Michael Busch, who was making his Major League debut, cut the deficit to three with an RBI single in the sixth, the first hit of his career. Austin Barnes followed with a sacrifice fly to cut it to 7-5. Even after Mookie Betts was robbed of a go-ahead homer by left-fielder Jack Suwinski, the Dodgers stayed with it.

In a game in which they missed Max Muncy and Will Smith, the Dodgers were still able to put together eight runs. It was one of their most impressive wins of the season, and it was Taylor who led the way.

“Felt like we scratched and clawed our way back into this one. That’s what we used to do so well,” Taylor said. “So to be able to do that, work one inning at a time, get some baserunners and then come up in some big spots felt good.”

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