Despite tying the franchise record for wins at 106 games, the Dodgers found themselves in an elimination game to start the playoffs, facing off against the 90-win Cardinals in the NL Wild Card Game.
It was as hard-fought as you’d expect a mess of a win-or-go-home game like this to be, but it was the Dodgers who prevailed 3-1 in the end thanks to the heroics of Chris Taylor, who walked it off in the bottom of the ninth with a dramatic homer.
Max Scherzer got the start for the Dodgers and things started out roughly with Tommy Edman leading off with a single and stolen base for the Cardinals. A walk to Paul Goldschmidt put two on, and a foul out down the line due to a nice play from Mookie Betts in right advanced Edman to third. The first run of the game came home when Will Smith couldn’t block a Scherzer slider and scored Edman and advanced Goldschmidt. 1-0.
After a fly out, Max seemed to induce an inning-ending ground out, but Corey Seager couldn’t get it out of his glove for an error and the runners were cornered again. Thankfully, a fly out ended the threat and prevented disaster.
The 2nd didn’t necessarily go much better. Scherzer started with full counts on the first three batters of the inning, getting a strikeout, issuing a walk to Harrison Bader, and giving up a sac bunt to Adam Wainwright to put another runner in scoring position. He got a fly out afterward so the deficit remained the same, but he did have to throw 43 pitches.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals sent Wainwright to the mound and things were working out well for him early. After Mookie led off in the 1st with a single, Wainwright retired the next six batters, including a 101 mph comebacker for a lineout from Justin Turner, a ground out from Smith on a sliding play up the middle from Edman, and a Matt Beaty fly out to the warning track in right.
Things somehow got worse for the Dodgers in the 3rd despite Wainwright struggling. Cody Bellinger walked to start and Max managed to get a sac bunt down. Then they caught a break when a Mookie soft liner up the middle clanged off Edmundo Sosa‘s glove for a single, though Bellinger had to freeze at second. By then Wainwright seemed to lose his curve and ended up walking Seager to load things up. After getting behind 2-0 to Trea Turner, Wainwright fought back and got him to chase a 3-2 curve that broke Trea’s bat for a grounder up the middle and a crushing double play.
Bases juiced. One out. Zero runs. A HUGE double play. pic.twitter.com/DMMuvM72TD— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2021
Not what you want.
Still, Scherzer limiting the damage early was important, because it meant one big fly could get them back in the game. And JT did just that to lead off the 4th, cracking a no-doubter to left for a 1-1 tie. It was his 13th playoff homer of his career and pushed his career playoff OPS over .900.
Max did settle in for a bit after that, giving up just a Goldy single in the 3rd and hitting Bader in the 4th, but he still didn’t have a clean inning. In the end, Scherzer never did as the 5th brought more mess with a Edman bloop single and a Goldy walk to start. After rebounding with a strikeout, Dave Roberts made the call to the pen, which was the right move as Scherzer clearly didn’t have it tonight.
Max Scherzer didn’t wanna give this ball up before leaving the game. pic.twitter.com/oaL2D4SCNX— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 7, 2021
He had a season-high in walks and didn’t have much the way of command tonight: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB (1 HBP), 4 K, 94 Pitches.
Joe Kelly never feels like a safe option, but he did have neutral splits on the year and was going to face at least one of each batter to get out of the frame. He ended up doing just that, getting a ground out and then battling back from a 3-0 count to secure a strikeout and escape the 5th with no damage.
JOE. KELLY. pic.twitter.com/1CFDvAyM4r— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 7, 2021
On the other end, Wainwright did rebound nicely after the JT homer in the 4th, getting the next seven batters, including four strikeouts. But after Trea led the 6th off with an infield single, Mike Shildt decided against letting Wainwright face JT again.
Luis Garcia was summoned from the pen and got a fly out but then walked Smith to put a runner in scoring position. AJ Pollock, who came into the game with a career .537 OPS in the playoffs, did himself no favors with a roller in front of home plate to end the 6th.
Garcia continued in the 7th, giving up a one-out single to Cody, who then stole second off Yadier Molina with two outs. But the chance wasn’t cashed in as Mookie flew out routinely to center.
With things now a battle of the pens, Dave turned to Brusdar Graterol in the 6th, which was a questionable decision given his mediocre year, and his 6.10 ERA and .372 wOBA allowed in September. But he got two quick outs, hit Bader, and then got another ground out to cruise through on just five pitches.
Blake Treinen was an uncontroversial choice in the 7th, and he cruised through the first two batters. Then Tyler O’Neill drew a walk and then stole second to setup a scoring chance, but Treinen induced a pop out to end the inning. He continued on in the 8th, where he was greeted with a Dylan Carlson single rolled to left against the shift. Later, Carlson was running on a fly ball to left, and probably did not retouch the bag on his way back to first.
The challenge failed, and after Treinen got a line out to left, his time was over after five key outs. Corey Knebel was next up, winning an eight-pitch at-bat against Bader with a strikeout to move things along.
Following Garcia, Shildt went to closer Giovanny Gallegos in the 8th to face the heart of the Dodgers order, and he gave up a single to Trea between two strikeouts. Smith did what he could, lining a ball that would’ve likely scored Trea on a double into the gap, but Paul DeJong (who just got into the game at short) leaped and caught it.
The 9th belonged to Kenley Jansen, and there was high drama after he gave up a one-out single and stolen base to Edman, but he ended up with three strikeouts in the inning after emphatically punching out O’Neill.
T.J. McFarland was tasked with avoiding the walkoff for the Cards, getting two outs on two balls that were rocketed by Albert Pujols and Steven Souza Jr., but Cody then won a battle with him and earned a full-count walk to prolong the inning.
That led to Alex Reyes entering and with CT3 at the plate. During the at-bat, Cody stole second for his second of the game against Yadi. Then on the very next pitch Taylor got a hanging slider and destroyed it to left for a 3-1 walk-off win.
Playoff Walkoff Scenes
This is what happens when you play your Cards right. pic.twitter.com/YgVymHVpor— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 7, 2021
“I was like a little kid running around the bases. Pure excitement, I don’t even know what I did.” Chris Taylor walks @kirsten_watson through his walk-off HR to send the #Dodgers to the NLDS. pic.twitter.com/iDpQ6HfZGA— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) October 7, 2021
“I’m drunk. Whatever.” pic.twitter.com/kYnDm82SPv— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) October 7, 2021
Celebrate Whenever You Can
“This is just the start.” pic.twitter.com/oJJNU0EIEZ— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 7, 2021
Wild night. pic.twitter.com/LF9xBRbpGO— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 7, 2021
Champagne poetry. pic.twitter.com/nLs5dIZMJS— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 7, 2021
The NLDS against the rivals starts at 3:30 PM HT/6:30 PM PT/9:30 PM ET on Friday.