CHICAGO -- The Dodgers' starting shortstop on Tuesday night, sans Corey Seager, was Chris Taylor -- he of the steal of a swap with Seattle, of the reinvented swing, of the 2017 season high in WAR and wonder. Taylor, utilityman extraordinaire, delivered, because that's what the Dodgers do.We could close
CHICAGO -- The Dodgers' starting shortstop on Tuesday night, sans Corey Seager, was Chris Taylor -- he of the steal of a swap with Seattle, of the reinvented swing, of the 2017 season high in WAR and wonder. Taylor, utilityman extraordinaire, delivered, because that's what the Dodgers do.
We could close our eyes, point to any part of the Dodgers' roster or just about any inning of what has quickly become a lopsided National League Championship Series presented by Camping World against the Cubs, and we could come up with an example or explanation for why this club is one win away from its first Fall Classic since 1988. But in the wake of a 6-1 win at Wrigley Field on Tuesday night, we might as well start with Taylor, the 27-year-old breakout star making a bit north of the minimum salary and making the most of the unexpected opportunity the long baseball season provides.
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Here was Taylor, in the stead of the stud Seager, coming up with the biggest hits in Game 3. A tiebreaking solo home run in the third that traveled a projected 444 feet, according to Statcast™, and a lead-extending triple in the fifth to back a dominant Yu Darvish, who then handed the lead over to the Dodgers' back-breaking bullpen. Speaking of backs, it was Seager's bum one that robbed him of an NLCS roster spot, and so Taylor and a 28-year-old guy named Charlie Culberson, who has played nearly 1,000 Minor League games and fewer than 200 in the Majors, have stepped up with four extra-base hits in his absence. Through six postseason games, all of which the Dodgers have won, Taylor has a 1.019 OPS, two home runs and six runs.
Because, again, this is what the Dodgers do.
"You look at the talent, we're deep," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "It's a very unselfish group. So when you take those components, you can weather a lot."
The weather for this game with an 8:08 p.m. CT start time an abnormal 67 degrees for the Windy City. All of baseball is bending L.A.'s way in the year 2017, so why wouldn't the atmospheric state do the same?
An air of inevitability has begun to pervade this NLCS, this postseason and this season. The twisted hand of fate can always intervene (and intervene it did in that strange 1-16 stretch late in the regular season that photobombed an otherwise pristine picture), but, generally speaking, it's the Dodgers' world, and we're just living in it.
On the verge of the World Series presented by YouTube TV, the Dodgers not only have that look in their eye, but for the first time in an era marked by rousing regular seasons and aggravating Octobers, they have an incredible number of things going their way, even by the standards of a team that spent its summer rattling off 81 wins in a 105-game run.
"To win the NL West five years in a row, that's a big accomplishment," Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said. "But I think you can get a little complacency as an organization when you keep coming up short and thinking you're achieving something when you show up to Spring Training every year and all you have to show is the NL West championship and not a World Series. So that was one thing we've been talking about and addressing -- that we've got to kind of enjoy the success we've had, but we still haven't accomplished our goal."
Ethier is another perfect example of things going well in the process of goal attainment. Before Taylor broke the 1-1 tie Tuesday with his homer, Ethier knotted the game with a solo shot of his own in the second inning. When he went deep, it was an alert to the sporting world at large (and probably even some Dodgers fans) that Ethier still was with the club. That was his first at-bat of this postseason -- having walked as a pinch-hitter in Game 2 of the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile vs. the D-backs -- his 35th of 2017 and his 65th since the start of 2016. The veteran outfielder hadn't started a postseason game since Oct. 15, 2015.
"Getting my name called tonight," Ethier said, "it's a great thing."
With a 25-man roster that sometimes feels more like a 35-man, opportunities must be earned, and Roberts has been masterful in his doling out of the innings and at-bats during this postseason.
That's why it was so jarring to see Roberts yank Curtis Granderson from the on-deck circle and let Darvish bat for himself in the sixth inning when L.A. had a 3-1 lead, the bases loaded with two outs and a chance to break the game open. As good as Darvish had been on the hill, Roberts obviously had the option of turning it over to a bullpen that had held opponents to a 1-for-41 showing going back to Game 2 of the NLDS sweep of Arizona. But he let Darvish bat (not swing, but bat), and in that key moment with 41,871 sets of eyes upon him, all of Wrigley Field was YuTube.
Naturally, it worked. Cubs reliever C.J. Edwards seemed spooked by Darvish's plate-crowding, bat-wiggling stance, and despite separate mound visits from both his catcher and his pitching coach, he couldn't throw a strike. When Darvish drew ball four on the fourth pitch, it was the greatest evidence yet that the Dodgers' ownership of this October is resolute, if not totally unbreakable.
You want to sum up the NLCS in a single stat? Darvish has more RBIs in the series than the Cubs' Kristopher Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras combined. In these three games, we've seen more of Yasiel Puig's tongue than the Cubs' bats.
"Their pitching's been really good, obviously," Bryant said. "I think we have one hit off their bullpen the whole series, which says something."
Oh, right. About the Dodgers' 'pen. It completed the equivalent of a nine-inning no-hitter vs. the Cubs before Thomas Stripling had the gall to let Alex Avila and Albert Almora Jr. single and double off him in succession in the ninth. But then Kenley Jansen came in to close it out, as he's prone to do.
So yeah, pick any element you like: It's likely working for the Dodgers. On Tuesday, the hero was Taylor, who, in the span of just three games, has become the first player in postseason history to homer as both a center fielder and a middle infielder. If, or when, the Dodgers finish off the Cubs, it could and likely will be somebody else. Because this is what the Dodgers do.
Anthony Castrovince has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2004. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.