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’ 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.