2021 National League Wild Card Game
|2021 National League Wild Card Game|
|Los Angeles Dodgers
106 - 56 in the NL
|1 - 0
|St. Louis Cardinals|
90 - 72 in the NL
|1||St. Louis Cardinals 1 Los Angeles Dodgers 3||October 6||Adam Wainwright (0-0) Max Scherzer (0-0)||8:10 pm|
Game 1 @ Dodger Stadium
|WP: Kenley Jansen; LP: T.J. McFarland|
|Home Runs: LA - Justin Turner (1), Chris Taylor (1)|
- Attendance: 53,193
The Dodgers won the Wild Card Game for the first time in their history, but it was a tight affair only decided on the final pitch of the game, in a stereotypical Hollywood ending. The two starting pitchers were veterans with loads of postseason experience each, and while they were both long gone by the time the game was decided, they pitched well, with Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright and his Dodgers opponent Max Scherzer only allowing one run each, which was still the score when the 9th inning started.
Before that, the Cardinals were the first to get on the scoreboard, doing so in the 1st inning. Tommy Edman led off the game with a single off Scherzer and then stole second base. Paul Goldschmidt drew a walk and Tyler O'Neill hit a long foul ball down the right field line which RF Mookie Betts caught near the stands, and which allowed Edman to advance to third base. Facing Nolan Arenado, Scherzer saw one of his pitches get away from catcher Will Smith, allowing the first run to score while Goldschmidt took second. Things were looking bad for Scherzer at that point, especially when, after a second out, SS Corey Seager mishandled a ground ball by Dylan Carlson and was charged with an error, placing runners on the corners. But the veteran pitcher got Yadier Molina to fly out to shallow center and he escaped with only a 1-0 deficit. The Dodgers' leadoff batter in the bottom of the 1st, Betts, replied by being generously credited with a single on a routine ground ball that SS Edmundo Sosa was unable to field cleanly, but Wainwright got out of the inning with a strikeout and a couple of soft liners. In the next two innings, the Cardinals managed to put men on base against Scherzer but could not score although Max's pitch count was climbing quickly, reaching 60 after just three innings. The Dodgers had a good chance to tie the game in the bottom of the 3rd, when Cody Bellinger, batting 8th after struggling all season, drew a lead-off walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Scherzer. Betts then hit a soft pop-up towards Sosa, who once again could not catch it cleanly, and Mookie was once again given a very generous single. Wainwright then walked Corey Seager to load the bases and tensions were high when, with a full count, he got Trea Turner to hit a ground ball right to second base. Sosa moved out of the way to let 2B Edman field it, touch the base himself and throw to Goldschmidt at first base to turn an inning-ending double play.
It looked like Scherzer would finally have an easy inning in the 4th when he got two quick outs, but he then went to a full count on #8 hitter Harrison Bader and then hit him on the leg with a pitch that would have been ball four anyway. He then struck out Wainwright on three pitches, but Scherzer was now at 78 pitches after four innings and it was clear he had at most one more inning left in him. Before that, though, the first batter in the bottom of the 4th, Justin Turner, got all of a hanging curveball from Wainwright and drove it deep into the tunnel in left field for a no-doubt homer that tied the game. Unfazed, Wainwright settled down to strike out the next two batters and get Matt Beaty to pop up to C Molina. The Cardinals then threatened again in the 5th, as, just like in the 1st, Edman led off with a single and Goldschmidt drew a walk. Now nearing 100 pitches, Scherzer made some of his best pitches of the night to strike out O'Neill; he clearly wanted to continue, but manager Dave Roberts had already made up his mind and brought in Joe Kelly to get out of the jam. He got Arenado to ground out to Justin Turner at third base, whose only play was to tag the bag for a force out, and then, throwing mainly knuckle-curves, struck out Carlson on a full count to end the inning.
Wainwright pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 5th, and new pitcher Brusdar Graterol got two quick outs for the Dodgers before hitting Bader with a slow curve, in what looked suspiciously like a deliberate ploy to bring Wainwright to the plate. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt decided not to hit for his pitcher who hit a weak ground ball back to Graterol on the first pitch he saw. But Wainwright had also worked hard to get that far and was clearly not long for this game, so the decision not to hit for him was far from a slam dunk. He gave up a one-out single to Trea Turner, which marked the end of his evening's work, as Shildt now brought in reliever Luis Garcia. Garcia got the next two outs, around a walk to Will Smith, to keep the score at 1-all. In the 7th, Chris Taylor came in to play left field for the Dodgers, replacing A.J. Pollock, as part of a double switch that brought in a fourth pitcher, Blake Treinen. Treinen walked O'Neill with two outs and he stole second, but Arenado was unable to cash him in, popping out to first base in foul territory. In the bottom of the inning, Bellinger singled with one out and stole second with two outs, but he too was left stranded in scoring position as Betts flied out. There was no scoring in the 8th either, even though Carlson led off the inning for the Cards with a single. He was still on first base after two outs when Corey Knebel replaced Treinen to face Bader, who struck out swinging on a full count. Giovanny Gallegos also allowed a single for St. Louis, with one out to Trea Turner, but there was no further damage. It was thus still 1-1 when the two teams headed into the 9th.
With a save no longer a possibility for the home team, Roberts decided to bring in his closer, Kenley Jansen to pitch the 9th. He struck out Paul DeJong, who had taken over the 9th spot of the order in an earlier double switch, but then gave up a single to Edman, his third of the game. Edman stole second base but Jansen struck out both Goldschmidt and O'Neill to end the inning, giving the Cardinals a perfectly imperfect 0 for 11 mark batting with a runner in scoring position. In the bottom of the inning, Gavin Lux pinch hit for Jansen, which prompted a counter-move as T.J. McFarland came in to pitch, prompting yet another move by Roberts, who brought in veteran Albert Pujols to pinch hit for his pinch-hitter. He lined out to center, and yet another pinch-hitter came up, this time Steven Souza in place of Billy McKinney, who had come in for 1B Beaty a couple of innings earlier, as Roberts continued to play the match-up game against the lefty McFarland, who could not be replaced before he had faced a third batter. Souza lined out as well, bringing up Bellinger who, in spite of facing a southpaw, drew a walk on a full count. Shildt now replaced McFarland with his closer, Alex Reyes, to face Taylor. Bellinger rattled him by stealing second base, and Taylor then ended the game by hitting a line drive to center field for a walk-off homer. It had not been easy, but the Dodgers were moving on to meet the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series in what was to be a clash of the titans.
- Paul Casella: "Cards-Dodgers position-by-position analysis", mlb.com, October 6, 2021. 
- Jeff Eisenberg: "Dodgers survive tense NL wild-card game, top Cardinals on Chris Taylor's walk-off homer", Yahoo! Sports, October 7, 2021. 
- Houston Mitchell: "The head-to-head playoff history of the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals", Yahoo! Sports, October 4, 2021. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Defending World Series champion Dodgers survive NL wild-card vs. Cardinals with walk-off win", USA Today, October 7, 2021. 
- Juan Toribio: "Taylor-made! Dodgers walk off into NLDS", mlb.com, October 7, 2021. 
|Major League Baseball Wild Card Game|