The Dodgers are into their bullpen way earlier than anyone expected. Way, way, way earlier. But thus far the decision has worked out for Manager Dave Roberts.
Tommy Edman continued to be a thorn in Max Scherzer’s side by leading off the inning with a single, his second hit, that just barely found its way into center field. Paul Goldschmidt worked a six-pitch walk, which resulted in a meeting on the mound and got some activity going in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Scherzer struck out Tyler O’Neill on five pitches, absolutely blowing a 95-m.p.h. fastball past him for strike three. That, however, was it for Scherzer. Roberts came out to the mound and took the ball away from his team’s co-ace, pulling him after 94 pitches and four and a third innings.
Joe Kelly replaced Scherzer, inheriting runners at first and second with one out. He got a quick force out at third on a grounder to Justin Turner. And despite a wild pitch sending Goldschmidt to third, Kelly got out of the jam by striking out Dylan Carlson.
Scherzer’s final line for the day: 4 ⅓ innings, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 4 strikeouts, 3 walks, 1 hit batter.
If the Dodgers’ bullpen falters in the next inning or two, the second-guessing of Roberts will be fierce.
Max Scherzer is out of the game with one out in the fifth inning thanks to his pitch count reaching 94 and the Cardinals having two runners on base. Joe Kelly is coming on in relief in a move that could make Manager Dave Roberts look brilliant or foolish.
The Dodgers had been steadily making Adam Wainwright work hard for outs in the last few innings and Justin Turner was able to get the payoff for that, walloping a 2-2 curveball into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left field for a solo homer that made this a 1-1 game.
There was no rally to follow. Wainwright was able to recover quickly from the homer by striking out catcher Will Smith on three pitches and punching out A.J. Pollock on five. That brought up Matt Beaty, who popped out to the catcher to end the inning. (At some point in this game Albert Pujols will pinch hit for Beaty or for the pitcher and that’s going to be a big moment … but not yet.)
Justin Turner ties the game, 1-1, with a homer to left.
Turner’s blast into the bullpen woke up the crowd at Dodger Stadium.
A perfectly executed shift resulted in Yadier Molina grounding out on a ball that would have been a single if the shift haters were to get their way. Edmundo Sosa grounded out softly back to pitcher Max Scherzer for the second out. But Harrison Bader messed up Scherzer’s attempt at his first perfect inning of the day by fighting through an eight-pitch plate appearance that ended with Bader being hit by a pitch and heading to first base.
Luckily for the Dodgers, that brought up Adam Wainwright, who may have a silver slugger in his trophy collection but is still a pitcher. He struck out on three pitches, swinging and missing at all three.
Issues with his control, communication problems with his catcher and a brutal defensive mistake by his shortstop had Adam Wainwright in big trouble, but the veteran pitcher pulled a Houdinilike escape act by inducing an inning-ending double-play with no runs having scored.
Wainwright had put himself in a hole quickly by walking the fairly dreadful Cody Bellinger on five pitches to start the half-inning. He then managed to fall behind the overmatched Max Scherzer, 3-1, before allowing the opposing pitcher to sacrifice bunt Bellinger over to second.
A liner up the middle by Mookie Betts absolutely should have been caught by shortstop Edmundo Sosa, who got his glove on the ball but dropped it (a play that was somehow ruled a single). Then the next batter, Corey Seager, walked, loading the bases with one out. It looked like the Dodgers would surely be able to tie the game, but Wainwright induced a grounder from Trea Turner that resulted in a double-play and allowed the Cardinals to escape unscathed.
Paul Goldschmidt led off the inning with a single into right-center. After Tyler O’Neill struck out on three pitches (looking absolutely helpless on a two-strike slider), Nolan Arenado grounded into a fielder’s choice that erased Goldschmidt from the basepaths. That left the inning up to Dylan Carlson, who grounded out to first to end the half-inning.
All in all, a solid effort for Max Scherzer.
Will Smith tried to single-handedly run up Adam Wainwright’s pitch count by putting together a nine-pitch at-bat. It may have ended with a groundout to second (and a nifty play by Tommy Edman), but it still made for a difficult start to the inning for Wainwright.
A.J. Pollock went down far easier, popping out to shortstop on the third pitch he saw. That brought up Matt Beaty, who is in at first base in place of the injured Max Muncy. Beaty, a left-handed hitter, flied out to the warning track in right to end the inning.
Keep an eye on Max Scherzer’s pitch count going forward. It’s already at 43.
The veteran starter looked more like himself when he started the second inning by throwing a 95-m.p.h. fastball past a flailing Edmundo Sosa for strike three and his first strikeout of the game. But he followed that with a six-pitch walk of Harrison Bader. He then ran up a full-count against Adam Wainwright, who was able to move Bader over to second with a two-strike sacrifice bunt. But that was it, as Tommy Edman flied out to left to end the half-inning.
To put it mildly, St. Louis is making Scherzer work. The good news for Dodgers fans: Scherzer was allowed to throw 100 or more pitches 16 times this season across his time with Washington and Los Angeles.
Staked to an early 1-0 lead, Adam Wainwright allowed an infield single to leadoff batter Mookie Betts but then caught Corey Seager looking at a sinker for a called strike three. Trea Turner’s grounder to shortstop Edmundo Sosa got Betts erased at second (the ultra-fast Turner was easily safe at first) and then Wainwright helped his own cause by making a terrific catch on a liner up the middle by Justin Turner to end the inning. Nice and tidy.
This was not exactly the start Max Scherzer wanted. He got ahead on leadoff batter Tommy Edman with a 1-2 count only to have Edman single to right. Then Edman stole second. Scherzer got squeezed on a potential strike three to Paul Goldschmidt by home plate umpire Joe West and then walked Goldschmidt one pitch later. Tyler O’Neill flied out to right, but Edman tagged up and went to third.
With runners on first and third with one out, Scherzer threw a wild pitch that allowed the speedy Edman to score easily from third and Goldschmidt to advance to second. Scherzer recovered to retire Nolan Arenado on a fly ball to left, but an error by Corey Seager loaded the bases. Scherzer then got out of the jam when Yadier Molina flied out to center on the first pitch he saw. In all, a fairly frustrating 19-pitch inning, but relatively little damage.
A wild pitch lets a run get home as the Cardinals lead, 1-0.
Tommy Edman singled, stole second, advanced to third by tagging up on a popup and scored on a wild pitch.
Reporting from Dodger Stadium
Look closely at the front row behind home plate, shaded toward the Dodgers’ dugout as you look at your television: Washington outfielder and N.L. M.V.P. candidate Juan Soto is sitting right next to his agent, Scott Boras. And Soto is rocking a Trea Turner jersey. But don’t think Soto is choosing sides: It is a Turner jersey from his time with the Nationals.
The N.L. wild-card game is officially underway, with Max Scherzer delivering a 95-m.p.h. fastball to Tommy Edman for a ball. One of these teams will have their season end in around three hours.
LOS ANGELES — Being that Hollywood is only a fly ball or two away from Dodger Stadium, it would be fitting if the longtime Cardinal Albert Pujols appeared in a big moment against his former team, especially with Adam Wainwright starting tonight’s wild-card game and Yadier Molina behind the plate for St. Louis.
The three won the World Series together in St. Louis in 2006 and 2011 and remain close friends.
So how cool would it be …
“Nothing is cool about that team over there right now to us,” Wainwright said during Tuesday’s workout here. He added: “Albert is a great friend, but right now we are fighting. We’ll make up afterwards. But we’re fighting right now.”
His words echoed what Pujols said last week anticipating this matchup.
“I still have a lot of respect for that organization, and for a lot of the guys on that side, but whenever we cross that line, it’s about a job,” Pujols said. “It’s about helping your team win. After all is said and done, we’re still friends and the respect is still mutual.”
Wainwright had one more interesting point.
“I was watching ‘Last Chance U’ earlier and they were going over the game plan and the team they were going to face, and one of the players marveled at how fast the other quarterback was,” Wainwright said. “And the coach stopped him and said: ‘Don’t be a fan.’”
“Right now, we can’t be a fan of that other team.”
Reporting from Dodger Stadium
Now it can be told: Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said he lost a bet with his friend and former Giants manager, Bruce Bochy, over San Francisco ending Los Angeles’ run of eight consecutive N.L. West titles. “He had the Giants, I had the Dodgers, I lost a dinner and a nice bottle of Bordeaux.”
LOS ANGELES — One key challenge for Dodgers starting pitcher Max Scherzer and catcher Will Smith tonight: controlling St. Louis’s running game.
The Cardinals ranked sixth in the majors with 89 stolen bases this season. In addition, three Cardinals are among M.L.B.’s top 50 in sprint speed (feet per second) according to Statcast: Edmundo Sosa (13th, 29.8), Tyler O’Neill (15th, 29.7) and Harrison Bader (20th, 29.5). Tommy Edman, the Cardinals’ lead-off hitter, is just outside the top 50 at No. 52.
Cardinals Manager Mike Shildt is going with Sosa at shortstop over Paul DeJong and slotting him seventh in the lineup. O’Neill is batting third and playing left field, and Bader is batting eighth and playing center field.
“It was a tough decision,” Shildt said of starting Sosa over DeJong. “I felt like a couple of variables went into it, but ultimately it felt like Sosa earned the opportunity.”
Shildt said that Sosa “is a big reason why we’ve gotten to where we’re at.”
“It’s a heady ballclub,” Los Angeles Manager Dave Roberts said. “They’re very opportunistic, very aggressive.”
It makes sense to emphasize speed against the Dodgers as opposing teams love to run against Los Angeles. In all, the Dodgers allowed 108 stolen bases this season and caught 34 players stealing, with the 142 attempts leading the majors.
‘Listen, it’s not rocket science. You’ve seen guys with this kind of role toward the end of their career. I know I’m not the player I once was. I think everybody knows that. But I think I can still contribute.’
LOS ANGELES — It was a packed house, a big moment and the baseball was rising toward the sky on a line straight toward October. Albert Pujols watched in a uniform he never expected to wear from a place he never imagined he would be. It was his teammate Corey Seager’s two-run blast that lit the roar that capped a Los Angeles evening last week. And there was Pujols, in the Dodgers’ dugout, leading the cheers.
Once, in the days he was known as The Machine, Pujols commanded his own stretch-run spotlight. Those big moments now mostly belong to others, while Pujols focuses on what is usually one nightly plate appearance, strategically placed, against a left-handed reliever.
The Dodgers signed Pujols in May, four days after his unceremonious release by the Los Angeles Angels and in the final season of a 10-year, $240 million contract. In his very specific role, he has flourished beyond expectations, scorching lefties for a .306 batting average and finishing the season with 12 homers and 38 R.B.I. for the Dodgers.
His teammates rave about his joie de vivre. And now a man who once dominated Octobers for St. Louis is back in the postseason for the first time since 2014 — and his first test will come Wednesday against his beloved Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. His frustrating end with the Angels is fading from the narrative.
With Max Muncy out of the lineup after dislocating his left elbow in Sunday’s season finale against Milwaukee, the Dodgers decided to start lefty Matt Beaty at first base, use Cody Bellinger’s defensive skills in center field and leave Albert Pujols as a pinch-hitting weapon off the bench in Wednesday night’s wild-card game against St. Louis.
“It starts with who’s on the mound,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said, referring to his own ace, Max Scherzer.
Roberts noted that Scherzer is a “high-strikeout guy” and St. Louis’s lineup included a “high volume of right-handed bats.” So, Roberts said, defense in center field and at first base was important and that he anticipated most of the ground balls Cardinals hitters put in play would be to the left side of the infield, where veteran mainstays Corey Seager (shortstop) and Justin Turner (third base) will be waiting.
With their 106-win season on the line in a single-elimination game, the Dodgers will have Max Scherzer on the hill. He’s a 37-year-old with three Cy Young Awards, but in this pitching matchup, he qualifies as the young one. Opposite him will be Adam Wainwright, 40, who won his first World Series ring when Scherzer was still in college.
The blockbuster matchup would have been hard to foresee coming into the year, as Wainwright had dealt with injuries and decline in recent years, and Scherzer was firmly entrenched with the Washington Nationals. But both veterans proved to be absolutely dominant this season, making tonight’s game a must-watch even beyond the incredibly high stakes.
For Wainwright, a five-year stretch of injury and inconsistency finally lifted in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His strong work in 10 starts last year carried over to this season, his best overall since 2014, with a 17-7 record, a 3.05 E.R.A. and 174 strikeouts.
For Scherzer, a July 30 trade offered a chance to go from an also-ran to a potential champion. After the trade, he found his best form, going 7-0 in 11 starts for Los Angeles with a 1.98 E.R.A. and 89 strikeouts in just 68⅓ innings. He even got his 3,000th career strikeout in style by flirting with a perfect game. The Dodgers won every game he started.
Wainwright beat the Dodgers in his only start against them in 2021, allowing four earned runs in eight and a third innings of a 5-4 win on Sept. 8. Scherzer faced the Cardinals twice, once with the Nationals and once with the Dodgers, and beat them both times, allowing no earned runs in 14 innings of work.
One came into the season as the defending champion and the betting favorite to repeat. The other wasn’t a lock for the playoffs until the final weeks of the season. But two storied National League franchises, which have combined for an eye-popping 18 World Series titles, will face off in a wild-card game that will propel one of them to a league division series and will send the other home licking its wounds and wondering what might have been.
Who: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
What: The National League wild-card game
When: 8:10 p.m. Eastern
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
Why: A spot in a league division series against the 107-win San Francisco Giants
Streaming: Various services like Sling, Hulu Live and FuboTV will carry the TBS feed, which is also available via TBS.com and the TBS app.