Down to the last pitch, the win-or-go-home National League wild-card game between the Dodgers and Cardinals on Wednesday night included so many incredible moments of drama and intensity. Let’s take a look at the most intense situations from the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory in Los Angeles.
1. Chris Taylor sends the Dodgers to NL Division Series (and sends the Cardinals home)
After making the All-Star team for the first time in his career, Taylor came into the postseason in a horrendous 8-for-72 spin with 30 strikeouts since Aug. 27. He came off the bench in the seventh inning and, after making an out in his first at-bat with Cody Bellinger on first base, he got another chance against right-hander Alex Reyes in the ninth. Taylor got a hittable slider that he didn’t miss.
Taylor was so hopeless at the plate that even when the Dodgers lost first baseman Max Muncy to an elbow injury on the final day of the regular season, manager Dave Roberts chose Matt Beaty instead of Taylor as Muncy’s replacement.
Playing left field in the eighth, Taylor got his feet tangled but dived forward and managed to snag a line drive by Edmundo Sosa. In the bottom of the ninth with two outs and Bellinger on second base after a stolen base, Taylor got his feet under himself completely.
“Think small and big things happen,” Taylor said.
2. Max Scherzer gives the ball to manager Dave Roberts — eventually
After pitching almost perfectly for the Dodgers since being acquired in a trade-deadline deal, ace Max Scherzer struggled in his final two regular-season starts. He also struggled with his command for most of Wednesday night against the Cardinals. In the fifth, the first two batters reached before Scherzer came through by striking out Tyler O’Neill. At 94 pitches and with Scherzer’s stuff still buzzing but his command questionable, Roberts went to the mound to take out his starter. Instead of handing him the ball, Scherzer shook Roberts’ hand. And then he relented.
3. Joe Kelly gets out of Scherzer’s jam
Roberts’ move did not backfire. Kelly replaced Scherzer and got soft contact from Nolan Arenado for the second out. After a wild pitch put runners at the corners, Kelly went full to Dylan Carlson before striking him out on a knuckle curve. Whoa.
4. Wainwright gets out of bases-loaded jam
The first strong opportunity for the Dodgers came in the bottom of the third. Bellinger walked and, after a sac bunt by Scherzer, Mookie Betts singled and Corey Seager walked to load the bases. NL batting champion Trea Turner, also the league’s fastest runner, shattered his bat on a grounder that went over the mound and over the second-base bag for a 4-3 double play turned by Tommy Edman and Paul Goldschmidt. Turner came in 5-for-10 with the bases loaded and two grand slams, including one in the regular-season finale Sunday. He also came in having somehow grounded into 18 double plays.
5. Wainwright gets in the way of the line drive by Justin Turner
Holy smokes, Turner smoked it. Everybody OK? It’s a good thing Waino is a young 40.
6. Turner turns on one to tie the game
The Cardinals struck first, but Turner led off the fourth by turning around a hanging curve by Wainwright, hitting it deep into the Dodgers bullpen to tie the score at 1-all. It was yet another postseason homer for Turner.
7. Cardinals barely escape disaster in the sixth
After the Cards took out Wainwright, the Dodgers had runners at first and second with two outs against Luís García. AJ Pollock hit a tapper in front of the plate that García threw to first base just in time for the third out. But watch:
The throw sailed away from Goldschmidt and almost created a wreck at first base. Just a few days ago, the Dodgers lost Muncy on a similar play. Muncy’s elbow actually popped out of its socket. Cliff Floyd got messed up on a play like this once. But, even if nobody got hurt, the Cardinals were perilously close to not getting the out at first. If they hadn’t, Trea Turner was racing around third and would have scored the go-ahead run.
8. Video replay exonerates Dylan Carlson from big mistake
Cards rookie Dylan Carlson smartly led off the eighth with a bunt single toward third base against an exaggerated shift. One batter later, he ran toward second on a fly ball and appeared to not re-touch the bag on his way back to first. Umpires on the field didn’t call it and the Dodgers challenged, but the video review called him safe. Were the Cardinals working more magic?
9. Taylor announces his presence in the field
No, they were not. After the video review, Edmundo Sosa hit a line drive to left that Taylor struggled with but caught on a dive. Until he caught it, the play looked a lot like the time Matt Holliday missed one for the Cardinals, but also caught one in the groin, at Dodger Stadium in a playoff game once upon a time.
10. Kenley Jansen says no
Edman had three hits (two on broken bats) and two stolen bases, including one in the ninth that put him in scoring position with one out — marking the 50th straight successful steal for an opponent against Jansen. But the Dodgers closer has his own methods. He struck out Paul Goldschmidt to give Tyler O’Neill a chance.
When they won 19 of 22 down the stretch, the Cards collectively hit .324 with runners in scoring position in those games. Against the Dodgers, they were 0-for-11 after Jansen struck out Goldschmidt and O’Neill. It was onto the bottom of the ninth for the Dodgers. And now it’s onto the Giants in the NLDS, the first time ever the rivals have met in the postseason.