Dodgers, Dave Roberts backing Chris Taylor after 1st HR feels like wishful thinking

Jun 14, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor (3) is congratulated by right fielder Teoscar Hernandez (37) after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 14, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor (3) is congratulated by right fielder Teoscar Hernandez (37) after hitting a two-run home run in the fifth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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For the first time in almost a decade, the Kansas City Royals are setting themselves up as serious contenders. They have the Twins hot on their tail in the AL Central, but if they can stay on pace and get streaky once or twice, they could make their first postseason appearance since they won the World Series in 2015.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, are comfortably at the top of the NL West and have an 99% chance of making the playoffs this year. Everything would have to go wrong for LA to completely fall out of the race.

Still, the Dodgers found themselves in a tight spot during their first game against the Royals on Friday. Cole Ragans, Kansas City's prized lefty, had allowed two runs to LA (thanks to a Miguel Rojas home run, no less) in the bottom of the fifth, but otherwise the Dodgers had been kept to one hit, a single from Shohei Ohtani.

The Royals were up 3-2 after Rojas' home run. Kiké Hernández grounded out for the second out of the inning, and then No. 9 hitter Chris Taylor came up to the plate.

This year, Taylor has a 35.6% whiff rate and 39.6% K rate, and he was batting .100 after his last appearance on June 11. Odds were that Taylor would go down swinging to end the inning.

But on a 2-1 count, Ragans threw a changeup that stayed right at the bottom of the zone. Taylor got low, swung, and swatted the ball over the left field wall for his first home run of the season and to tie the game at 3-3.

Will Chris Taylor's first home run for Dodgers be enough to save him from a trade deadline dumping?

The Dodgers went on to win that one, thanks to a Freddie Freeman single in the eighth that scored Mookie Betts to make things 4-3. But Taylor's home run moved the needle just enough in the Dodgers' favor, and some good work out of the bullpen for Daniel Hudson and Alex Vesia kept the Royals to one hit through the eighth and ninth.

After the game, Roberts said of Taylor's struggles: "He comes in every day ready to help us win, and that’s just sort of who he is. [...] He’s pretty much the same whether he’s going really well or scuffling."

The Dodgers have been standing by Taylor throughout the season, who's now hitting .108 on the after his homer but hasn't picked his batting average above .111 since April 1. It's been confounding to watch, as the Dodgers have sent perhaps more deserving players back to the minors when the time came for a roster crunch because of Taylor's contract and lack of minor league options.

His homer was long overdue and something fun to witness, especially because it eventually sparked a rally to help the team to a win, but the Dodgers shouldn't use it as an excuse to keep him around past the trade deadline if he can't make it a much, much more frequent occurrence in the month and a half until July 30.

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