The National League Wild Card Game was played last night between two teams that took very different paths this season. A second-half surge by the St. Louis Cardinals had them playing against a team that won 106 games in the Los Angeles Dodgers. After having a losing record (44-46) at the All-Star break, the Redbirds went 46-26 since including 22-7 in September and a franchise-record 17-game winning streak. It was two stud pitchers going at it in the game, Max Scherzer – a tremendous trade deadline acquisition by the Dodgers – and ageless wonder Adam Wainwright. Both of them are future Hall of Famers, but only one came out on top in this game.
Scherzer got off to a bit of a shaky start, allowing the first run of the game to score on a wild pitch after a single, stolen base, and walk. He seemed to settle down after that but still labored his way through the next few innings. He worked around a single and hit by pitch in the third and fourth innings, respectively, before really getting into trouble in the fifth. That inning started with a Tommy Edman single and Goldschmidt walk. After a mound visit, he came back and struck out Tyler O’Neill. But at 94 pitchers, manager Dave Roberts thought it was time for the hook. Obviously, the big-time competitor he is, Scherzer was not happy with this, and neither were Dodger fans at the time.
Dave Roberts reaches for the baseball, Max Scherzer shakes his hand. pic.twitter.com/TizO2Q9Cre
— Baseball GIFs (@gifs_baseball) October 7, 2021
But it worked out, as Joe Kelly got the next two, Nolan Arenado on a grounder to third and Dylan Carlson on a swinging strikeout. Adam Wainwright was tremendous as he kept the Dodgers scoreless through three. He had the only 1-2-3 inning of the game for either side in the second. His only blip came in the fourth when he surrendered a leadoff homer to Justin Turner. After that, he set the next seven down in a row, including four of his five strikeouts in the game. After a one-out single by Trea Turner in the sixth, Waino was pulled for Luis Garcia. From then on, it was a battle of the bullpens.
Battle of the Bullpens
The bullpens matched zeroes on the board until the ninth inning. Garcia got out of trouble in the sixth after surrendering a two-out walk, while having the guts to wave off Yadier Molina on a tapper in front of home plate. The righty worked around a one-out single in the seventh to keep it tied. Brusdar Graterol hit a batter in the sixth but got out of it unscathed, and Blake Treinen worked around a walk in the seventh. Treinen gave up a single to Carlson, a flyout, and a hard lineout before Corey Knebel struck out Harrison Bader to end the eighth. Giovanny Gallegos struck out Corey Seager and Turner in the eighth. Then Kenley Jansen had a terrific top of the ninth as he struck out the side.
T.J. McFarland was who the Cardinals called upon in the ninth, and he recorded two quick outs on hard lineouts. But then Bellinger walked for the second time as Mike Schildt walked out to the mound to bring in Alex Reyes. Bellinger stole second to set Chris Taylor up for a chance to end it. Both guys hadn’t had the best regular season, but they stepped up when it mattered. On the next pitch, Taylor rocked a hanging slider into the left-field seats to walk it off.
CHRIS TAYLOR INTO THE NIGHT #Dodgers https://t.co/aFPWd0hBjr
— Alex Kielar (@AlexTBPK) October 7, 2021
As I mentioned, Bellinger didn’t have a great regular season. The former MVP missed nearly eight weeks due to hamstring and rib injuries. In 95 games, he hit just .165/.240/.302 with 10 homers, 36 RBI, and a 48 wRC+. In addition to the struggles at the plate, the normally Gold Glove outfielder had a -1 DRS in centerfield. But in this game, Belli walked twice, got a knock, and stole two bases. He was a big key to this victory and showed up when it mattered. Taylor had been 8-for-72 with a .195 on-base percentage and 30 strikeouts since August 27. Now, he became the fifth guy to hit a walk-off home run in a sudden death postseason game: Bill Mazeroski for the 1960 Pirates, Chris Chambliss for the 1976 Yankees, Aaron Boone for the 2003 Yankees, and Edwin Encarnacion for the 2016 Blue Jays.
Tommy Edman had a great game for the Cardinals, as he had three base knocks and two stolen bases, while only two other Cardinal hitters had even one hit – Goldschmidt and Carlson. The Cardinals’ bats fell asleep after the first inning and were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
For the first time ever, the Dodgers and Giants meet up in the postseason. The two franchises have both been around since 1883 and duked it out all season in the NL West. Now, they meet up in what will be a series right out of Hollywood, literally. The Dodgers travel to the Bay Area on Friday where they will face Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman in games one and two.
Teams: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants
Date: Begins on Friday, Oct. 8 at 9:37 p.m. EST
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images