A Thrilling Wild-Card Win Sets Up a Division Series for the Ages

LOS ANGELES — Nobody was hotter than the Cardinals as they thundered down the stretch of the 2021 season. St. Louis won 17 in a row at one level, setting a franchise report and streaking into the postseason.

But with the embers nonetheless scorching from a extremely entertaining National League wild-card game right here in Dodger Stadium on Wednesday evening, Chris Taylor’s bottom-of-the-ninth, two-out, two-run homer that despatched the Dodgers to a heart-thumping 3-1 victory served as a reminder that the Dodgers had been simply as scorching in the season’s last months.

While trying to chase down San Francisco and keep away from the embarrassing chance of a loss stamping them with one-and-done standing as an encore to their World Series title in 2020, they went 45-15 over their last 60 video games.

They additionally completed the common season by successful their last 15 consecutive residence video games, a franchise report.

Wednesday’s win made it 16 in a row, and counting. The Dodgers will now open as dramatic a division collection as baseball has had in fairly a while on Friday in San Francisco, the first time the ancient-rival golf equipment have confronted one another in the postseason since 1889, when the Brooklyn membership of the American Association, a predecessor of the Dodgers, confronted the National League’s New York Giants in what was then billed as a World Series.

Games 1 and a pair of of the division collection between the fashionable Giants and Dodgers are Friday and Saturday in San Francisco’s Oracle Park earlier than the Dodgers look to make it 17 consecutive residence wins in Game Three on Monday.

“I think it’s great,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts mentioned shortly after the champagne sprayed in the clubhouse, one thing that was forbidden final yr throughout the top of the pandemic. “It’s just what baseball wants, the Giants and the Dodgers.

“It’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and it’s happening.”

The Dodgers completed 106-56 this yr, a second-place report that inspired a great deal of debate. How unfair was it that a 106-win group, a membership with the second-best general report in the recreation, may see its season doubtlessly worn out with one loss?

And what about the Giants? They went 107-55 and now they have to face the 106-win Dodgers in a division collection quite than the National League Championship Series?

With speaking factors, perceived slights and historical past round each flip, it’s a matchup that had individuals arguing earlier than it even got here to fruition.

Farhan Zaidi, the Giants’ third-year president of baseball operations, was employed away from the Dodgers, the place he was the common supervisor beneath Andrew Friedman. The intrastate rivalry is in full power, with the opposing followers hating one another and the Giants successful the season collection, 10-9. But there are additionally unmistakable bonds between the groups that shine by way of. They simply get placed on ice for a few days each time these two face one another.

“I think it’s great for baseball,” Roberts mentioned. “They think a lot of the way we think as far as getting platoon and matchup advantages. There’s a lot of familiarity, which makes it fun, even more challenging.

“It’s going to be a great series. It’s going to be a fantastic series.”

The closest the West Coast variations of those historical franchises have come to assembly in the postseason got here in 1962, once they tied for first and the Giants gained a best-of-three tiebreaker with the Dodgers for the proper to advance to the World Series, the place they misplaced to the Yankees.

In 1951, the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants had additionally tied for first and performed a finest two-of-three collection with the Giants successful that one as properly.

This yr’s N.L. West race wasn’t determined till the last day of the season. Over their last 29 video games, the Giants went 23-6 and the Dodgers 22-7.

“They beat us, but now we have the opportunity to get them where we want them,” mentioned the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer, whose gritty 4 and a third innings Wednesday evening put the Dodgers in place to maintain their season alive.

It wasn’t classic Scherzer, but it surely was sufficient. His command was not as sharp as ordinary and, by giving up a first-inning run, he mentioned he was “on pins and needles” at each flip.

The Cardinals had struck rapidly when leadoff man Tommy Edman roped a base hit to proper, stole second, moved to 3rd on a fly ball after which raced residence on a wild pitch.

The Dodgers tied it at 1-1 when Justin Turner led off the fourth by launching a hanging, 75-mile-per-hour Adam Wainwright curveball into the left area seats.

It stayed 1-1 over the course of 5 innings, by way of 9 mixed aid pitchers, a number of pinch-hitters and two beginning pitchers — Scherzer (4 and a third innings, one run, three hits, three walks and 4 strikeouts) and Wainwright (5 and a third innings, one run, 4 hits, two walks, 5 strikeouts) — reluctant to depart the recreation when their managers signaled to the bullpen.

“I don’t think it was the most popular decision, but it probably made for good TV,” St. Louis Manager Mike Schildt quipped.

The sellout crowd of 53,193 spent a lot of the four hour 15 minute recreation on its ft hoping to will the Dodgers into motion. Then, in the backside of the ninth, Cody Bellinger, a former winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award who has struggled badly all season, labored a stroll from a 2-2 depend in opposition to the lefty reliever T.J. McFarland to set the stage for Taylor, who had entered the recreation in the seventh inning.

Taylor had additionally been struggling, batting simply 7 for 65 over his previous 25 video games.

“Obviously it’s a little different not starting,” Taylor mentioned. “I was trying to stay ready off the bench, and I knew there was a chance I was going to come in knowing the way we operate.”

In the dugout with Bellinger at the plate and Taylor in the on-deck circle as the risk of extra-innings loomed, Scherzer was standing subsequent to reliever Joe Kelly.

“I regarded and Joe and I mentioned, ‘I think Belly is going to get on here and C.T. is going to hit a home run,” Scherzer said, noting that “I actually had a vision for him right there. I’ve performed with him, I’ve confronted him, and I believed it was the proper man for the proper spot.”

On a 2-1 depend, Taylor unloaded on an 88-m.p.h. slider from Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes. It seemed like a rifle shot in the evening, and as quickly as the ball left the bat there was little doubt that it was a game-winner.

The Dodgers exploded out of their dugout and Dodger Stadium shook with noise. A large blue mob met Taylor at residence plate in celebration and, after a number of minutes and a while spent pumping his arms to boost the degree of crowd noise even increased, Roberts discovered Taylor and held certainly one of his star’s arms over his head like a heavyweight champion.

It was becoming, not solely for Taylor however for this group and the collection it’s about to play. In 146 years of National League baseball, solely 4 groups have had a higher successful share than this yr’s 107-55 Giants. The 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (103-36), the 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36), the 1907 Cubs (107-45) and the 1909 Pirates (110-42). A report that stellar is what it took to unseat the Dodgers from a string of eight straight N.L. West titles. And even at that, the Dodgers almost chased them down.

Roberts mentioned earlier than the recreation that shedding the division additionally brought about him to lose a wager together with his good pal, and former San Francisco supervisor, Bruce Bochy.

“He had the Giants, I had the Dodgers,” Roberts mentioned. “I lost a dinner and a nice bottle of Bordeaux.”

But with the Cardinals eradicated and the Dodgers getting another scrumptious crack at the Giants, somebody requested Roberts late Wednesday evening if perhaps now he’s going to go double-or-nothing with Bochy.

“Yes I am,” Roberts mentioned, grinning. “I’m going to shoot him a text tonight. I am, yeah. We’re going to go double or nothing for the series.”

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