Michael A. Taylor’s opposite-field grand slam off Wade Davis in the eighth inning on Wednesday at Wrigley Field gave the Nationals some breathing room in an elimination game they led, to that point, 1-0. Taylor’s into-the-wind blast, which came on the five-year anniversary of Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4 of the 2012 National League Division Series against the Cardinals, is probably the second-most memorable in team history and helped Washington force a deciding Game 5 in D.C.
Nationals Manager Dusty Baker was every bit as surprised the ball landed in the basket that juts out above the ivy-covered right field wall as Nationals radio play-by-play man Charlie Slowes, whose call of the home run deserves at least as many listens as Joe Maddon pitching changes.
“I didn’t think any right-handed hitter could hit that ball out of the ballpark like he did tonight,” Baker said after the game.
The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Taylor joined his manager among the four players who have hit a postseason grand slam after entering the at-bat without an extra-base hit or RBI in their playoff careers. The other two: Troy O’Leary for the Red Sox in 1999 and Eddie Perez for the Braves in 1998.
Baker’s grand slam came for the Dodgers during his 10th season, in Game 2 of the 1977 National League Championship Series against the Phillies. Bill Russell and Reggie Smith led off the fourth inning of a 1-1 game with singles before Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda asked his No. 4 hitter, Ron Cey, to bunt. Cey moved Russell and Smith into scoring position with a successful sacrifice and Phillies pitcher Jim Lonborg walked the next batter, Steve Garvey, to load the bases.
“You certainly hate to give up two hitters like Cey and Garvey, but Baker’s been coming through all year,” Lasorda said of the strategy. “We felt Lonborg was pitching well and that we’d better go for a run or two.”
The Dodgers got four runs on one swing.
“I just wanted to keep the ball off the ground, to hit it hard, to get it to the outfield if I can,” Baker said.
The Dodgers went on to win the game, 7-1, to even the best-of-five series. Los Angeles won the next two games to advance to the World Series, where they lost to the Yankees in six games. Baker was named MVP of the NLCS after hitting .357 with two home runs and eight RBI in the series.