The October roar is back. The October chills are back. The October Dodgers are back.
A baseball is gone from wrestling Chris Taylor’s wildest imagination and floated into a town’s wildest dreams on Wednesday night, landing in legend and legacy and left-field flag at Dodger Stadium.
Locate the bouncing blue home plate mosh pit. Cue Chavez Ravine cradling its old core. Queue “I love LA!” “
And, yes, yes, yes, bring in the Giants!
In a wild outing ending in a wild National League game, moments after taking a wild puff worthy of his .121 average in September, Taylor desperately drove a ninth inning pitch and two strikeouts. Cardinals of Saint-Louis‘Alex Reyes in the mass of humanity dancing into left field for a two-run home run to break a long 1-all tie and give the Dodgers a 3-1 win.
The bullet disappeared as soon as he hit it. All 53,193 fans knew that. They waited two years to fill the stadium for a time like this. Their roar said it. The roar of the stands felt it.
Taylor also knew it was gone. He’s waited his entire six-year career for a hit like this. His raised right arm meant it. His three applause as he rounded first base counted him.
One shot for each race. A clap for every win is needed to win the next round of a lifetime.
Yes it really is, with this win the Dodgers will now meet these horrific San Francisco Giants in a true playoff series – not a regular season playoff series – for the first time in the teams’ 131-year rivalry.
It took 2,535 games, but they will finally face off in October when they start a National League best-of-five division series on Friday at Oracle Park in San Francisco.
All of this, 70 years after Bobby Thomson’s infamous “Shot Heard ‘Round The World” gave the Giants a playoff victory over the Dodgers.
All this after Taylor’s gunshot heard around the ravine.
“That’s what baseball wants,” said manager Dave Roberts. “One of the biggest sporting rivalries. It’s happening.
A small gathering of fans who gathered in the field-level seats above the Dodgers dugout ended the night with a chant.
“Beat the giants! “
Just another night with some wild and wonderful October Dodgers.
“These are one of the times you dream of and live for,” Taylor said. “I will be able to watch this for the rest of my life.”
The moment was actually staged early in the ninth, with the game tied 1-all after the Cardinals scored in the first inning on wild Max Scherzer ground and the Dodgers countered in the fourth with a home run of Justin Turner.
After seemingly endless scoreless innings filled with broken bats and missed opportunities, like two heavyweights battling in the final round, both teams took their final shots.
Halfway through the Cardinals’ ninth, they gave the green light to second with an out against Kenley Jansen after Tommy Edman hit a single and stole the second. But Jansen, struggling to restore his October mojo, hit Paul Goldschmidt in search. Then, after taking the tally to 3 and 1 against Tyler O’Neill and seeing a safe double fall from a few feet into the right corner of the pitch, Jansen struck out O’Neill on sticks on a 93 mph cutter.
O’Neill threw his bat. Jansen slapped his chest. The scene was set.
With the crowd screaming at “Seven Nation Army,” TJ McFarland took the mound at the bottom of the ninth and, with two outs, inexplicably walked the hitting Cody Bellinger .165. Then, on a one-shot against Taylor – who started the appearance of the plate with a wild swing – Bellinger stole the second.
Cue the hero.
“Honestly, I was just trying to hit a single, not trying to overdo it, and it gave me a good slider to hit and I was able to get it up in the air,” Taylor said. “I was trying to keep things small, to think of little things, big things happening.”
Huge things. Embrace things. Dancing things. Champagne things. Dodge stuff.
Even if the game was a tie, did anyone really doubt the defending World Series champions were not going to succeed? Can anyone reasonably doubt that this victory could propel them to a second consecutive title?
“It’s exciting,” said Roberts. “To get through an elimination game, it took our whole roster to get through it, so hats off to the players, who come in big points. There were no predefined excuses. We were ready to win a football game.
On a night filled with twists and constant breaths throughout the city, the only constant was the emotion pouring into Chavez Ravine, with fans uttering long-awaited playoff screams accompanied by star-studded guests.
There was Russell Westbrook leading the cheers on the scoreboard. There was Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals leading the cheers behind the plate while wearing a Trea Turner homecoming jersey. There was Magic Johnson waving a blue towel next to the Dodgers dugout.
“For over 50,000 screams, hopping on their feet in excitement, this is something you remember,” said Turner, who has a Dodgers record of 13 home runs in the playoffs and is still on. money in October.
In the end, despite the constant excitement of the game, this whole exercise was crazy. By winning 106 games and finishing with the second best record in baseball, there’s no way the Dodgers must have been immersed in this one-game madness. They won a full series.
Before the game, Roberts agreed.
“Can I sit here and say it’s not ideal after winning X number of games?” It’s not ideal, ”he said. “But it is and I don’t want or expect our guys to think otherwise.”
They did not do it. There was no hard feelings, only serious hardball in a game in which the Dodgers scratched and scratched and hung on until their October magic reappeared and made its way over the fence of the left field.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.