LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor put Major League Baseball fans on notice in the Dodgers' 5-2 win in Saturday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.If you haven't heard of Taylor, it's likely you've heard of him now, after he launched a 97 mph fastball
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Taylor put Major League Baseball fans on notice in the Dodgers' 5-2 win in Saturday's Game 1 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.
If you haven't heard of Taylor, it's likely you've heard of him now, after he launched a 97 mph fastball from Cubs right-hander Hector Rondon a projected 401 feet to right-center for a go-ahead homer in the sixth inning.
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Left off the roster out of Spring Training, Taylor is now front and center of the Dodgers' championship chase. It was Taylor's first postseason moonshot and made him the first Dodgers center fielder to hit a go-ahead home run in the sixth inning or later in the postseason since Duke Snider in the 1952 World Series.
"He just carries himself well," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "Doesn't get too high, doesn't get too low. People use that word 'poise' a lot, but he has poise. And in big spots, he has the ability to zone in and swing at strikes and take balls. So he's done that all year for us."
Not having the spotlight doesn't bother Taylor, either. The Dodgers' often soft-spoken leadoff man has been an "unsung hero," as Roberts put it. He won't stick his tongue out after legging out a triple like teammate Yasiel Puig, but he'll make his presence felt with his bat.
"We understand his value," Roberts said. "But I think that he just wants to play baseball, so I don't think that that really concerns him. But we have a long list of unsung heroes."
Taylor remade his swing in the offseason so he could get to fastballs better and still lay off breaking balls. And in the Dodgers' victory over the Cubs, Taylor's solo shot vs. Rondon was the fastest pitch he homered against and the third-fastest pitch a Dodgers player has taken deep this season.
"I felt it was just something I had to do," Taylor said about his swing change. "I had to make that adjustment to just take it to the next level. I knew I wanted to be an everyday player, and I knew that was an adjustment I would have to make."
The work he put in the winter paid off dividends. The 27-year-old had a career year, hitting .288/.354/.496 with 21 homers this season.
Taylor's role with the Dodgers becomes even more important during this series, with All-Star teammate Corey Seager dealing with a back injury and left off the NLCS roster. Taylor will get some starts at shortstop when the Dodgers face righties.
Regardless, Roberts has full confidence in Taylor the rest of this postseason.
"He hits righties well, lefties well," Roberts said. "So now you take the swing change and the head that he has, the good head, the compete that he has, that's a pretty good Major League ballplayer."
Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.