Seemingly benched because of his slumping bat, Chris Taylor as a late defensive replacement launched a home run to left field with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to walk the Dodgers off to a 3-1 victory in the 2021 National League Wild Card game.
The fans did indeed witness a duel; however, they did not expect any late-game offensive heroics, much less from Taylor.
The Cardinals struck in the first when Tommy Edman scored on a Scherzer wild pitch, but the game definitely took on a playoff flavor from that point on, as offense was at a premium. Justin Turner put the Dodgers on the board with a 401-foot solo shot to left field in the fourth inning to tie the game at 1-1.
Scherzer lasted just 4-1/3 innings and looked disappointed when skipper Dave Roberts pulled him in favor of Joe Kelly. Scherzer allowed one earned run on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts, but his command was atypical of his normal self. When Roberts replaced Scherzer, the veteran righty had a whopping pitch count of 94 in the fifth.
Wainwright showed the same disappointment as Scherzer upon his own removal. Wainwright lasted 5-1/3 innings, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks while striking out five. He threw 95 pitches.
Kelly was perfect in the two-thirds of an inning after replacing Scherzer. Brusdar Graterol succeeded Kelly with a flawless sixth inning. Blake Treinen threw the entire seventh and two-thirds of the eighth before being replaced by Corey Knebel.
Running into trouble after an Edman single and a stolen base, Kenley Jansen ended up striking out the side in the top of the ninth, setting up the chance for Los Angeles to walk off in the ninth.
Former Dodger prospect Luis Garcia took over for Wainwright in the sixth and was succeeded by Giovanny Gallegos in the eighth. Veteran lefty T.J. McFarland started the ninth for the Cardinals and recorded two outs before walking Cody Bellinger, but it was righty Alex Reyes who surrendered the long ball to Taylor.
Jansen was credited with the victory, and McFarland was tagged with the loss.
The Dodgers had a huge chance to break things open in the third inning. After Bellinger’s first walk of the night, Scherzer sacrificed, and Mookie Betts followed with another infield single. Corey Seager drew a walk to load the bases, but Trea Turner ended the inning with a ground ball double play to second base.
The Dodgers threatened again with two outs in the sixth after a TTurner single and a Will Smith walk, but AJ Pollock grounded out softly to end the inning. However, Taylor cashed in when it mattered most in the ninth.
For the first time in franchise history, the Dodgers now prepare to face the Giants in a playoff series.