Taylor’s homer propels Dodgers to 9-5 win over Nationals

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — Dodgers outfielders Chris Taylor and Zach McKinstry are more than making up for the absences of MVPs Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger.

Taylor hit a three-run homer and McKinstry made big plays with his bat and arm Saturday night in Los Angeles’ 9-5 victory over the Washington Nationals.

With Betts sidelined by a sore back, Taylor batted leadoff and was in center field. McKinstry is seeing regular time in right with Bellinger on the injured list due to a calf injury.

“Taylor holds his own in the way he plays the game, but for Zack to pick us up was big. Every time he plays he impacts the game somehow,” manager Dave Roberts said.

AJ Pollock also drove in three runs for the defending World Series champions, off to a 7-2 start that includes wins in four of their last five games. Julio Urias (2-0) allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Juan Soto homered twice and Ryan Zimmerman got three hits for the Nationals, who remain without four players due to coronavirus cases and quarantines. Zimmerman has multiple hits in three of Washington’s five games

Taylor’s two-out drive to left field off Patrick Corbin (0-1) was the key hit during a five-run second. Taylor’s first home run of the season came two batters after McKinstry’s single plated a pair of runs to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.

McKinstry made a big defensive play to end the top of the first when he threw out Zimmerman at third after a bloop RBI single by Starlin Castro.

“Every day I’m getting more confidence and picking up stuff. Whether it is moving in when pitchers are throwing batters inside or maybe taking a couple steps toward the infield,” McKinstry said about playing right field.

Pollock came up big in the seventh, clearing the bases with a two-out double to left. Andrew Stevenson tried to make a diving grab but missed, with the ball rolling to the wall before it was retrieved by Castro.

Washington pulled to 6-3 in the sixth when Soto lined a drive into the bleachers in right field and Yan Gomes had an RBI single. The Nationals had the bases loaded with two outs but Jimmy Nelson struck out Stevenson.

Soto struck again in the ninth with a two-run shot to right for his eighth career multi-homer game.

HAPPY RETURNS

Nationals catcher Yan Gomes and infielder Jordy Mercer both made their first start after coming off the injured list Friday. Gomes, a pinch-hitter in Friday’s 1-0 loss, had two hits and drove in a run. Mercer got three hits.

“It was good to get those guys in the lineup. Hopefully more are coming soon,” manager Dave Martinez said. “Soto hit the ball and guys played well.”

FOR STARTERS

Corbin, reinstated from the injured list Saturday after clearing COVID-19 protocols, retired the Dodgers in order in the first on 12 pitches but had control problems in the second. He walked the first three batters in the inning before Will Smith was forced out at home on Gavin Lux‘s grounder to first. Then came McKinstry’s single and Taylor’s homer.

The left-hander struck out four straight Dodgers in the fourth and fifth before being chased when Corey Seager got aboard on a single and came home on Justin Turner‘s double to give the Dodgers a 6-1 lead. Corbin ended up allowing six runs on six hits and struck out five.

“I thought it was good to get extended to 80 pitches. I didn’t have my best stuff, but for the situations and everything to deal with, I felt alright,” Corbin said.

Urias, who allowed nine hits and struck out three, retired 11 straight from the second to the sixth before surrendering Soto’s solo shot. The left-hander is unbeaten in his last 19 regular-season and postseason games (including 14 starts), going 9-0 with a 2.68 ERA.

“It was not as good as my first start. I did the best I could with the pitches I had,” Urias said. “The defense kept making plays behind me and the offense carried us.”

LASORDA TRIBUTE

The Dodgers honored late Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda before the game. The video tribute featured Lasorda singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” during spring training in 2013 during a montage of highlights. Lasorda passed away on Jan. 7 at age 93 due to a heart attack.

“For that video to have Tommy singing, it keeps bringing him to life and allowing us to remember the good times,” Roberts said.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Nationals: RHP Will Harris (right hand inflammation) has progressed to long tossing at the team’s alternate training site in Fredericksburg, Virginia. … RHP Kyle McGowin was moved to the taxi squad after Corbin was brought off the injured list. … INF Adrian Sanchez has been sent to the alternate training site.

Dodgers: Betts did some batting and running, but is likely to remain out of the lineup until Tuesday. … RHP Brusdar Graterol (non-injury related) threw 15 pitches in a simulated inning. … RHP Tony Gonsolin (right shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen Sunday.

UP NEXT

The series finale features a pair of three-time Cy Young Award winners as Nationals righty Max Scherzer (0-0, 6.00 ERA) opposes Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw (1-1, 4.26).

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.