Defending World Series champion Dodgers survive NL wild-card vs. Cardinals with walk-off win

LOS ANGELES - Come on, it’s Hollywood.

It’s the drama everyone wants to see.

It’s the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, one of the fiercest rivals in all of sports.

And it is now here, back in living color, thanks to Chris Taylor’s two-run walk-off homer in the ninth inning, leading the Dodgers to a 3-1 thriller over the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday night in the National League wild card game.

It was the first time the Dodgers won an elimination game at Dodger Stadium since Game 7 of the 1988 NL Championship Series against the powerful New York Mets, back in the days of Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden.

The Dodgers celebrate the walk-off two run home run hit by left fielder Chris Taylor in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers celebrate the walk-off two run home run hit by left fielder Chris Taylor in the ninth inning.

But, oh, was this a beauty, setting up the fabulous theater of the Giants-Dodgers once again, with perhaps the two greatest teams in baseball.

The Giants proved they were the better team in the regular season, winning a franchise-record 107 games.

The Dodgers won 106 games.

Now, we’re about to find out who’s the best team in a best-of-five series beginning Friday night at Oracle Park in San Francisco.

It’s technically the first time these teams have ever met in postseason. They played tiebreaker games in 1951 and 1962, but it was for the NL pennant, with the postseason not invented until 1969 when the National League and American League split into two divisions, creating the two championship series. The wild-card game came into play in 1994 when the league went to three divisions.

Is it fair that a 106-win team was subjected to a stressful elimination game?

“Look, you have to win your division,’’ Dodgers starter Max Scherzer said before the game. “We didn’t win our division. We’re in second place.

“There’s no crying in baseball.’’

Certainly, this game kept the sellout crowd of 53,193 on edge the entire night, with the Cardinals unable to produce a lone hit with a runner in scoring position in 11 at-bats.

The crowd even included Washington Nationals star Juan Soto, who showed up wearing former teammate Trea Turner’s jersey with the Nats, trying to rile up the crowd. He was shown on the videoboard and was booed, with fans remembering how the Nats eliminated them in 2019, only to turn around and show that he was representing the Dodgers.

Certainly, Adam Wainwright did everything possible to ruin the Hollywood script.

He was sensational throughout his 5 ⅓-inning stint, with the only real mistake hanging a 75-mph curveball to Justin Turner that he sent 401 feet into the Dodger bullpen, tying the game at 1-apiece.

The only time he really ran into trouble was in the third inning when he suddenly lost his control and loaded the bases with Trea Turner coming to the plate. Turner worked the count full, with the sellout crowd on their feet screaming, Wainwright came back with a curveball, and Turner grounded into an inning-ending double play.

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Justin Turner greeted Wainwright with a leadoff homer in the fourth inning, the 13th of his postseason career, but suddenly, Wainwright found his groove. He retired the next seven batters, without permitting the ball out of the infield, until Trea Turner hit a dribbler down the third-base line for an infield. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt, who let Wainwright bat in the fifth inning, came to the mound and turned the game to their bullpen, getting everything he needed out of Wainwright.

“I've learned a long time ago,” Cardinals president John Mozeliak said, “never bet against the man.”

Scherzer pitched well enough, yielding just three hits and one run, but labored, and was at 94 pitches when manager Dave Roberts came to the mound with one out in the fourth inning. Scherzer couldn’t believe it. Sure, there were two runners on board, but he had just struck out Tyler O’Neill, and struggling Nolan Arenado was on deck.

Scherzer refused to look at Roberts, and when Roberts asked for the ball, Scherzer merely shook his hand. Roberts had to reach into his glove to grab the ball as Scherzer stormed off the mound.

The crowd sellout crowd wasn’t sure what to do, cheer Scherzer for his performance or boo Roberts for the decision.

The move paid off handsomely when Joe Kelly came in and induced a weak grounder from Arenado and struck out Dylan Carlson, keeping the game tied at 1-apiece.

Wainwright did everything possible to ruin the Hollywood script, but the Cardinals never could produce in the clutch, giving

The win gave Roberts another chance to get even with former Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

You see, the two staged a dinner bet -- including a nice bottle of Bordeaux -- in mid-summer with Bochy betting that the Giants would hang on to win the division, while Roberts naturally picked his own team.

They will be doubling-down in the NL Division Series.

The Giants and Dodgers, just like it was meant to be.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Defending World Series champion Dodgers survive Cards with walk-off win

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