LOS ANGELES -- From Alex Wood's 10-0 start to Cody Bellinger becoming the fastest player to mash 24 homers, the Dodgers' first half of the season has been full of unexpected contributions.Chris Taylor's emergence may be the Dodgers' biggest and most welcomed surprise. The 26-year-old went 4-for-5 and delivered his
LOS ANGELES -- From Alex Wood's 10-0 start to Cody Bellinger becoming the fastest player to mash 24 homers, the Dodgers' first half of the season has been full of unexpected contributions.
Chris Taylor's emergence may be the Dodgers' biggest and most welcomed surprise. The 26-year-old went 4-for-5 and delivered his first career walk-off hit as the Dodgers secured a 5-4 win and a series sweep over the divisional rival D-backs on Thursday night.
"I think we've seen that with Chris all year in big spots," manager Dave Roberts said. "He doesn't panic."
Taylor, a natural shortstop, has emerged not only as a dependable utility player, he's also provided a spark offensively for a team that has dealt with injuries to key contributors like Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson. Taylor has hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, with seven runs, five doubles and one homer to go along with a .359 batting average.
Coming into the season, Taylor only had two home runs in 156 career games. He already has 10 homers this season, including three grand slams.
"We've had various guys on the DL," Roberts said. "Guys have stepped up. It's kind of the culture that we've got. Everyone has an opportunity, and there's a good support group and guys want to be 'the guy' and step up. It's not all about Clayton [Kershaw] or Corey [Seager]; we have a lot of good players."
Where Taylor has helped the most is against lefties, which have plagued the Dodgers most of the last two seasons. Entering Thursday, Taylor was slashing .339/.431/.949 with two homers in 56 at-bats against southpaws.
His bat was crucial on Thursday evening, as the Dodgers' offense struggled to get to D-backs All-Star southpaw Robbie Ray, who struck out 13 in six innings. Taylor had three of the five hits Ray allowed.
"He has explosive stuff," Taylor said of Ray. "He's having an unbelievable year; he's an All-Star. I was just trying to keep it simple, almost go into two-strike mode and just throw your hands to the ball, find a way to get the barrel on it and not overswing."
To Roberts, Taylor's night is just a reflection of the Dodgers' depth and how they've built their 5 1/2-game lead in the National League West.
"Chris Taylor had a huge night offensively," Roberts said. "But you can look at what Rich [Hill] did. Every night again it's somebody different, and that's the sign of a good team. ... Seems like I say the word depth every single night, but that's probably been the biggest reason for our success."
Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.