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Chris Taylor's 14th-pitch, bases-clearing double powers Dodgers past Cardinals

The LA Times logo The LA Times 6/1/2021 Mike DiGiovanna
a baseball player is getting ready to hit the ball: Chris Taylor hits a 14th-pitch, bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to help propel the Dodgers to a 9-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press) © Provided by The LA Times Chris Taylor hits a 14th-pitch, bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to help propel the Dodgers to a 9-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

It was an epic showdown, all right, just not the one most anticipated.

What began as a marquee pitching matchup between former Southern California prep stars Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers and Jack Flaherty of the St. Louis Cardinals gave way to a battle royale between Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor and Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera.

The utility man and the hard-throwing left-hander stared each other down for 14 pitches Monday night, the tension rising throughout a grueling at-bat that came with two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the sixth inning, before Cabrera finally blinked.

After fouling off a total of eight two-strike pitches — six fastballs ranging from 97 to 99 mph, an 82-mph curve and a 90-mph changeup — Taylor lashed a 97-mph fastball into the right-center-field gap for a three-run double to push the Dodgers toward a 9-4 victory before 18,071 at Dodger Stadium.

“That was a huge at-bat, the difference in the game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He just wasn’t gonna be denied. The guy is throwing 97 to 98 mph with a breaking ball and changeup. C.T. was just relentless in that at-bat. It was probably the best one we’ve had this year.”

Taylor’s clutch hit broke a 3-3 tie, and the Dodgers pulled away with three more runs in the eighth to snap a three-game losing streak. Almost as remarkable as the length of the at-bat was the fact that, once the count ran full, Taylor did not appear to swing at a pitch outside the strike zone.

“I knew he had a good fastball with some off-speed stuff in there as well,” Taylor said of Cabrera, whom he had not faced before Monday. “I was trying to keep it short and simple, sort of single him to death, play pepper, not try to do too much. I knew I had been up there for a while. I didn’t realize it was 14 pitches.”

The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the second when Gavin Lux and Taylor hit back-to-back solo homers off Flaherty, Lux hitting a towering 378-foot drive to right for his fourth homer of the season and Taylor lining a 399-foot shot to left for his seventh.

But those were the only hits Flaherty, the former Harvard-Westlake High School star, gave up in a five-inning, 83-pitch start in which he struck out nine and walked one before departing because of left-side tightness.

Bauer, the Santa Clarita Hart High product, said he felt “pretty sick” coming into the game and wasn’t sure whether he would be able to make the start, but he was able to “get enough sleep, hydrate and get my body” in condition to pitch.

a baseball player throwing a ball: The Dodgers' Trevor Bauer gave up four runs, three of them earned, in 6 2/3 innings and earned the win Monday. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press) © (Ashley Landis / Associated Press) The Dodgers' Trevor Bauer gave up four runs, three of them earned, in 6 2/3 innings and earned the win Monday. (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

The right-hander didn’t look sick. He yielded one hit through five innings, Tommy Edman’s leadoff double in the first, and got some help from center fielder Cody Bellinger, who made a leaping catch at the top of the wall to rob Yadier Molina of extra bases in the second.

But the Cardinals broke up Bauer’s shutout in the sixth when Justin Williams pulverized a 92-mph fastball, sending a leadoff homer high off the right-field foul pole, the ball leaving his bat at 115 mph. Edman reached on second baseman Zach McKinstry’s second throwing error of the game, and Dylan Carlson crushed an 0-and-2 curve over the wall in left-center for a two-run homer and 3-2 lead.

The Dodgers countered with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, Max Muncy sparking the rally with a one-out double to right-center off reliever Ryan Helsley. Justin Turner singled sharply to left, advancing Muncy to third, and Bellinger drew a walk from Cabrera to load the bases.

Will Smith took a full-count low-and-inside fastball for ball four to force in a run for a 3-3 tie, the 15th bases-loaded walk issued by the Cardinals this season. Their franchise record for bases loaded walks in a season is 17, set in 1974.

Taylor and Cabrera then went at it for 14 pitches — tied for the second-longest at-bat in the major leagues this season behind New York Mets pitcher Jacob Barnes’ 16-pitch battle against Arizona’s Pavin Smith on May 9 — before Taylor delivered the clutch hit that gave the Dodgers a 6-3 lead.

“That was an epic at-bat against a guy with really good stuff who is having a really good year,” Bauer said. “In a big spot, he put together a crazy at-bat. It was a big moment for us after going down 3-2 that inning, to come back and put four on the board. It was a big moment for the team.”

For Roberts, the battle was reminiscent of an 18-pitch at-bat that included 14 straight foul balls and ended with then-Dodgers infielder Alex Cora hitting a home run off Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Clement in a 4-0 win on May 12, 2004, in Dodger Stadium. Roberts was a Dodgers outfielder at the time but didn’t play in that game.

“I was here,” Roberts said of the Cora at-bat. “I had my pullover on and was cheering like heck. I saw that ball go out of the park on the 18th pitch, and it was incredible. I definitely was thinking about that as CT was going through that AB tonight. It wasn’t a home run, but it drove in three runs.”

Tyler O’Neill’s solo homer off Bauer in the seventh cut the lead to 6-4, but Lux lined his second homer of the game, a solo shot off reliever Daniel Ponce de Leon, to right-center for a 7-4 lead in the eighth and the Dodgers tacked on two more runs when Taylor doubled, Matt Beaty singled and Mookie Betts doubled.

Replay Video

Left-hander Victor Gonzalez relieved Bauer with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh and struck out pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter to preserve a 6-4 lead.

Setup man Blake Treinen was unavailable, Roberts saying “there was a little something in his pregame, his body didn’t feel right, so we wanted to give him an extra day.” But Nate Jones retired the side in order in the eighth, and Phil Bickford threw a one-two-three ninth to finish the game.

Bauer gave up four runs — three earned — and five hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one to improve to 6-3 with a 2.24 ERA on the season. Though he battled flu-like symptoms, the pitcher said that was not the reason he was late to the plate for his first at-bat of the game in the second.

“Oh, I had to use the restroom,” Bauer said. “A couple of the prior at-bats went pretty quickly, and everyone starts hollering, ‘You’re on deck,’ and two seconds later it’s, ‘You’re up now.’ I was scrambling.”

Short hops

David Price will start Tuesday night’s game, marking the third straight time the veteran left-hander will open a bullpen game for the Dodgers. … Tony Gonsolin (shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to throw five innings and about 70 pitches in his final rehabilitation start for triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. Barring a setback, Gonsolin will make his 2021 debut June 9 at Pittsburgh. … Outfielder AJ Pollock (left-hamstring strain) will play two more games with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga this week before joining the Dodgers for this weekend’s series at Atlanta. … Reliever Brusdar Graterol (forearm tightness) began a rehab stint with a one-two-three, 11-pitch inning at Oklahoma City on Monday night. … Roberts said Albert Pujols, who won three National League most valuable player awards and two World Series titles with the Cardinals from 2001 to 2011, will start at first base against his former team Tuesday night.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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