Chris Taylor hit .240 with no homers in 86 games for the Mariners before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. This season, he hit .288 with 21 homers for L.A., which is in the World Series.
CHICAGO – It took nearly three decades for the Los Angeles Dodgers to return to the World Series. In all that time, Hollywood’s team could never find the right leading man.
In their search for a leadoff hitter, they poached from old rivals, grabbing Willie Randolph from the New York Yankees and Brett Butler from the San Francisco Giants. They traded a future Hall of Famer, Pedro Martinez, to get Delino DeShields. They gave the role to their future manager, Dave Roberts, and to the career stolen-bases leader, Rickey Henderson. They tried a homegrown speedster, Dee Gordon, and a homegrown slugger, Joc Pederson.
Last fall, the Dodgers used four leadoff hitters in six games while losing the National League Championship Series to the Chicago Cubs.
Yet on Thursday, before the Dodgers trounced the Cubs 11-1 to clinch the pennant in Game 5 of this year’s NLCS, there was no doubt who would lead the way: Chris Taylor. He drew a nine-pitch walk to start the game, fueled other rallies with hits and will try to torment the Houston Astros in the Dodgers’ first World Series since 1988.
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All postseason, the Dodgers have used only Taylor — a former Mariner — to lead off. Last year, he was a stirrups-wearing afterthought who gained a slice of infamy in El Paso, Texas, for beaning the mascot, Chico the Chihuahua, with a wild throw from shortstop when he played for the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers.
On Thursday, Roberts summed up the reputation Taylor brought to Dodgers spring training this year: “a fringy, 4-A player” who had gambled on a swing change to save his career.
“It was actually the first day of full-squad workouts,” said Roberts, recalling the moment Taylor’s…