MILWAUKEE -- Chris Taylor had never played the outfield before last season, but the man sure can catch a fly ball. He started Game 7 of the National League Championship Series at second base, but he moved to left field in the third inning before making a momentum-killing catch on the warning track in left-center field to end the fifth on Saturday at Miller Park.
It might have been the defensive play of the series.
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"It was just a big moment," Taylor said after the 5-1 victory over the Brewers clinched the Dodgers' second consecutive trip to the World Series. "You can feel the tension in the stands. The stadium was going crazy. We brought [Julio Urias] in to face the [likely] MVP. The tying run was on second. It just all built up."
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After Milwaukee center fielder Lorenzo Cain hit a two-out double in the fifth with Los Angeles holding a 2-1 lead, left-hander Urias entered the game to face Christian Yelich. The Brewers' right fielder ripped an 0-2 fastball to deep left-center field. It looked like a sure-fire extra-base hit as the ball left Yelich's bat at 97.8 mph, especially after Taylor initially broke toward center field.
"I thought it was going to be further in the gap," Taylor said.
But Taylor corrected his route and threw up his glove at the last second, catching the ball as he fell onto the warning track.
"It kind of tailed a lot," Taylor said. "So my original route, I had to kind of banana back toward the wall. I was just glad I was able to make the adjustment to make the play."
"That certainly was a signature play," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Once the game is tied anything can happen. The momentum shifts."
Taylor needed to travel 81 feet to catch the ball, but he ran 85 feet as he adjusted from his initial break, according to Statcast™. Taylor said he also worried about Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger, which is why he never reached top speed. Taylor's sprint speed to the ball (27.1 feet per second) is nowhere near the 30.1 feet per second he reached in the outfield this season.
"I actually thought it was going to be Belly's ball," Taylor said. "It was right in between us; trying to get a feel where he was and whose ball it was going to be. It's so loud in there, calling for the ball does no good. Just trying to get a read on him and the ball at the same time."
Asked how plays like that come to him, Taylor said, "It's just one of those reaction plays, I think. Those are some of the tougher ones, a lefty hits one in the gap, it tails. You don't really know how much that ball is going to tail back. It's really just a reaction play."
And one that propelled L.A. to Boston for Game 1 of the World Series.