The Los Angeles Dodgers hosted the National League wildcard game Wednesday night against one of their rivals, the St. Louis Cardinals. Chris Taylor hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, with Cody Bellinger on second base; giving the Dodgers a 3–1 winning scoreline in front of 53,000 ecstatic fans.
One-hundred-six regular-season wins were not adequate to clinch a playoff birth for post-season play. The Dodgers were edged out of the National League (NL) West Division title by a miraculous 107 wins from the San Francisco Giants. The Giants were able to do it without the All-Star caliber lineup of the Dodgers. So these two teams shall fittingly meet next in the NL playoffs beginning Friday in San Francisco, 3:37 p.m. EST.
The other matchup in the NL is the Atlanta Braves at the Milwaukee Brewers. While the American League playoffs begin Thursday with the Houston Astros playing host to the Chicago White Sox. And the Tampa Bay Rays are hosting the Boston Red Sox, who had just defeated the NY Yankees in their wildcard matchup on Tuesday.
The Dodger-Cardinal game was a pitchers’ duel between Dodgers ace Max Scherzer and Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright. Scherzer allowed a run on a wild pitch in the first inning. He didn’t have his best control but only gave up three hits in 4 1/3 innings. Scherzer added, “you just go out and grind, no matter what the situation is.” Having won the World Series in 2019, Scherzer is notorious for finding ways to win.
However, Dodgers’ manager Dave Roberts had faith in his relief staff and replaced Scherzer in the fifth inning. Scherzer gave up a hit and a walk in the inning but was able to get one out with a strikeout.
Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright had better control of his pitches and dominated until Justin Turner crushed a 401 feet home run against him in the fourth inning. Wainwright regained control and was relieved in the sixth inning after giving up a hit to Trea Turner.
So the battle was left for the bullpens of each club. Roberts stated following the game, “Tonight … we didn’t have any margin [of error], and starting with Joe [Kelly] coming in that big spot, [it was the] changing point of the game.” He also added that his group of Dodger relievers were the “deepest” during his tenure as manager. Other relievers that contributed to the win were Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen. Dodgers’ center fielder, Cody Bellinger, stated that the relievers have ” been doing this all year, [and now] they did it on the big stage, so a lot more people could see … props to them for being able to do it, and to continue to do it. It’s not easy.” Five Dodgers relievers allowed only four baserunners.
Completing the victory in nine innings allowed the Dodgers to save Julio Urias, with an astounding 20–3 record, to start game 2 of the Giants’ series with six days rest.
Ultimately, the Dodgers bullpen’s shutout allowed for late-game heroics by Chris Taylor. He had been struggling with the bat late in the season and was no longer a starter. Cody Bellinger also had difficulties from injuries but started in center field. This was due to an injury to first baseman and top league hitter Max Muncy in the last game of the season. Bellinger was able to get to first base with a walk and stole second base. This was significant as it took the pressure off of Taylor to get any type of hit.
Taylor commented regarding his walk-off home run, “Honestly, I was just trying to hit a single. Not trying to do too much … he gave me a good slider to hit and was able to get it in the air.” Regarding the upcoming match-up with San Francisco, “It’s gonna be fun, two best regular season records, we’ve been battling all year, it’s going to be a hard-fought series,” he said.