It was an epic showdown, all right, just not the one most anticipated.
What began as a marquee pitching matchup between former Southern California prep stars Trevor Bauer of the Dodgers and Jack Flaherty of the St.Louis Cardinals gave way to a battle royale between Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor and Cardinals reliever Genesis Cabrera.
The utility man and the hard-throwing left-hander stared each other down for 14 pitches Monday night, the tension rising throughout an at-bat that came with two outs, the bases loaded and the score tied in the bottom of the sixth inning, before Cabrera finally blinked.
After fouling off a total of eight two-strike pitches — six fastballs ranging from 97 to 99mph, an 82-mph curve and a 90-mph changeup — Taylor lashed a 97-mph fastball into the right-center-field gap for a three-run double to push the Dodgers toward a 9-4 victory before 18,071 at Dodger Stadium.
Taylor’s hit broke a 3-3 tie with the National League Central Division leaders, and the Dodgers pulled away with three more runs in the eighth to end a three-game losing streak.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead in the second when Gavin Lux and Taylor hit back-to-back solo homers off Flaherty, Lux hitting a towering 378-foot drive to right for his fourth homer of the season and Taylor lining a 399-foot shot to left for his seventh.
But those were the only hits Flaherty, a former Harvard-Westlake High School star, gave up in a five-inning, 83-pitch start in which he struck out nine and walked one before departing because of left-side tightness.
Bauer, a Santa Clarita Hart High product, yielded one hit through five innings, Tommy Edman’s leadoff double in the first, and he caught a break when Edman over-slid the bag on what would have been a one-out steal of third base, the initial safe call overturned by replay.
Center fielder Cody Bellinger also made a nice leaping catch of Yadier Molina’s drive to the top of the wall to lead off the second, running a clean route and timing his jump perfectly.
But the Cardinals broke up Bauer’s shutout in the sixth when Justin Williams, who entered with a .152 batting average and three homers on the season, pulverized a 92-mph fastball, sending a leadoff homer high off the right-field foul pole.
Edman reached on second baseman Zach McKinstry’s second throwing error of the game, and Dylan Carlson crushed an 0-and-2 curve over the wall in left-center for a two-run homer and 3-2 lead.
The Dodgers countered with four runs in the bottom of the sixth, Max Muncy sparking the rally with a one-out double to right-center off reliever Ryan Helsley. Justin Turner singled sharply to left, advancing Muncy to third, and Bellinger drew a walk from Cabrera to load the bases.
Will Smith took a full-count low-and-inside fastball for ball four to force in a run for a 3-3 tie, the 15th bases-loaded walk issued by the Cardinals this season. Their franchise record for bases loaded walks in a season is 17, set in 1974.
Taylor and Cabrera then went at it for 14 pitches — tied for the second-longest at-bat in the major leagues this season — before Taylor delivered the clutch hit that gave the Dodgers a 6-3 advantage.
Tyler O’Neill’s solo homer off Bauer in the seventh cut the lead to 6-4, but Lux lined his second homer of the game, a solo shot off reliever Daniel Ponce de Leon, to right-center, for a 7-4 lead in the eighth, and the Dodgers tacked on two more insurance runs.
Tony Gonsolin (shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to throw five innings and about 70 pitches in his final rehabilitation start for triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday. Barring a setback, Gonsolin will make his 2021 debut June9 at Pittsburgh. … Outfielder AJ Pollock (left hamstring strain) will play two more games with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga this week before joining the Dodgers for this weekend’s series at Atlanta. … Reliever Brusdar Graterol (forearm tightness) began a rehab stint with a one-two-three, 11-pitch inning at Oklahoma City on Monday night.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.