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Chris Taylor’s 3 home runs power Dodgers to Game 5 win over Braves

LOS ANGELES — Wobbling on their last legs, the Dodgers stood firm.

When Freddie Freeman hit a two-run home run in the first inning and Dodgers “opener” Joe Kelly left mid-batter with an arm injury soon after, the Dodgers’ reign as defending World Series champions seemed to be reaching its expiration date, the late-arriving crowd in danger of curdling.

But the Atlanta Braves couldn’t land the knockout blow. The Dodgers came off the ropes throwing haymakers, including three home runs and six RBIs from Chris Taylor in an 11-2 victory in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

Taylor is the 12th player in MLB history to hit three home runs in a postseason game, the first to do it with his team facing elimination. AJ Pollock was just a step behind with two home runs and four RBIs as the Dodgers’ offense got its mojo back.

The victory sends shock waves all the way back to Atlanta, where the best-of-seven series will continue with Max Scherzer and Walker Buehler – on five and four days of rest, respectively, with no intervening bullpen duty – lined up to pitch to save the Dodgers’ season.

Game 6 on Saturday will be the Dodgers’ eighth potential elimination game in the past two postseasons, their fifth in 12 games this postseason.

Like a volunteer fire brigade passing water buckets hand to hand, the Dodgers’ bullpen tamped out the Braves’ early sparks and saved the barn from burning down in Game 5.

First up after Kelly’s exit was Evan Phillips. One of the more nondescript of the 37 players to pass through the Dodgers’ pitching staff this season, Phillips might have gotten the four most important outs of their season.

He finished off a strikeout of Adam Duvall with one pitch after replacing Kelly, who left with biceps tightness after 28 labored pitches. Then Phillips retired the side in the second, striking out two more.

The ground no longer threatening to open under their feet and swallow them up, Pollock led off the bottom of the second inning with a home run. Albert Pujols followed with a single (the first of three times he would reach base) and Taylor rifled the first of his home runs into the Dodgers bullpen.

A 2-0 lead that seemed like the beginning of the end became a mere flesh wound.

Braves starting pitcher Max Fried hadn’t given up three runs in a single inning since July 5 and the Dodgers tagged him for another in the third inning when Pollock, Pujols and Taylor strung three consecutive singles together.

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