Los Angeles Dodgers 3, St. Louis Cardinals 1
In 2021 the Dodgers tied a franchise record for victories (106). They had the largest run differential in the majors by 59 runs. They won 16 more games and outscored their opponents by 225 more runs than the Cardinals, their foe in the play-in wild-card game. They had won their previous 15 games in Dodger Stadium, site of the play-in game.
They were a wrecking ball.
On a Los Angeles radio show two nights before the game, former Dodger great and TV analyst Orel Hershiser left no doubt about his belief that the Dodgers would dominate any five- or seven-game series. But the one-game wild card that stood between Los Angeles and those five- and seven-game series? That, Hershiser explained, is where the baseball gods — or randomness if you’re an atheist about these things — get to meddling. Even the worst baseball teams defeat the best ones several times a season.
It was taut, tense game, with the Cardinals jumping out a 1-0 first-inning lead against an uncharacteristically erratic Max Scherzer, who threw 94 pitches before manager Dave Roberts pulled him for Joe Kelly. A Justin Turner solo homer and a shutdown bullpen kept the score 1-1 until the bottom of the ninth inning. With two outs, Cody Bellinger, a .165 hitter in the regular season, walked and Chris Taylor, whose average since Sept. 1 was even lower than that, smoked a walkoff homer to left center field.
The Dodgers had survived. Eight days later, it would be back to do-or-die.