Major League Baseball’s Wild Card format is a flip of the coin. Sometimes you simply call it right.
On Wednesday night at Chavez Ravine in Los Angeles, the Dodgers guessed right — on more than one occasion.
In a Wild Card game that will be remembered for years to come, Dodger Chris Taylor launched a two-out, two-run, walk-off home run to send LA to the NLDS with a 3-1 win over the Cardinals.
Taylor-made ending. pic.twitter.com/sQviI5S0fr
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2021
“These are the types of moments that you dream about and live for,” Taylor said. “To be able to look back on this for the rest of my life, I just feel fortunate that I was able to come through in that spot.”
It was the first elimination game walk-off home run since 2016 when Edwin Encarnacion did it for the Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card Game. Taylor — who struggled over the last month of the regular season — wasn’t in the starting lineup Wednesday, entering the game in the seventh inning.
“The game honors you,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He wanted to be in there tonight, but he was ready when called upon.”
While Taylor rightfully will be remembered as the hero of the game, it was two Dodger staples that kept the season alive for the 106-win Wild Card team.
Roberts’ decision to pull starting pitcher Max Scherzer after 4 ⅓ innings was questioned at the time, including by Scherzer who didn’t appear to easily give up the ball on the mound. Scherzer has been borderline unhittable since being traded to LA from Washington at the trade deadline, going 7-0 on the mound with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts with the Dodgers.
But his stuff wasn’t as sharp as we’ve grown accustomed to seeing, giving up a first inning run on a wild pitch, while walking three and hitting a batter in his 4.1 innings.
Roberts took his Cy Young candidate off the mound and turned to his bullpen in a move that is now viewed as brilliant.
The Dodgers bullpen used Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Kenley Jansen, combining for 4.2 scoreless innings and working out of multiple jams.
“They have been our backbone all year long,” third baseman Justin Turner said of the Dodgers bullpen. “For them to go out and give us four-plus shutout innings and give the offense a chance to come up and take a big swing, you can’t say enough about those guys.”
The Cardinals were 0-11 with runners in scoring position, failing to get the clutch hits St. Louis has grown accustomed to over the past month that included a 17-game winning streak for St. Louis.
“Yeah, that’s two good baseball teams playing a good baseball game,” Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright said. “Whoever won this game was going to have a really great chance to have a deep run in the postseason. That’s how we looked at it. We didn’t win. But we came in here and made them real nervous, didn’t we?”
For the Dodgers, Taylor wasn’t the only player to come up big after a touch stretch.
2019 MVP Cody Bellinger has had a brutal 2021 season, hitting an anemic .165 at the plate in just 95 games. But when he was needed the most, Bellinger found a way.
He was 1-2 at the plate with two walks and two steals, including a two-out walk in the ninth inning that kept the inning alive and gave Taylor a chance to send the Dodgers to the NLDS.
“I told Cody that he’s gonna be better going forward as a ballplayer and a person going through this adversity this year,” Roberts said. “He’s getting to the other side, and the at-bats he took tonight, the hit, the walk, the stolen bases, that’s what we need from him, to be that dynamic player, not that one-dimensional, home-run hitter.”
The Dodgers will face the NL West champions in the 107-win San Francisco Giants in the NLDS, with game one on Friday at Oracle Park.
A flip of the coin. The Dodgers hope they continue to guess right.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.