Dodgers stroll off vs. Playing cards to seize wild card

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LOS ANGELES — As Wednesday’s Nationwide League Wild Card Recreation progressed and the rating remained knotted, a singular thought started to achieve momentum within the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ dugout — within the backside of the ninth, with the St. Louis Cardinals on the opposite facet.

“All of us thought Albert [Pujols] was gonna hit a house run,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner stated. “It could not have been written any higher.”

Chris Taylor admittedly thought the identical factor. However then he noticed Pujols and Steven Souza Jr. line out, Cody Bellinger work a stroll, and Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes dangle a slider out over the plate. Taylor clobbered the pitch for a two-out, two-run walk-off homer, propelling the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over St. Louis and pushing them right into a extremely anticipated NL Division Collection showdown in opposition to the division rival San Francisco Giants.

For a Dodgers group scrounging for offense within the wake of Max Muncy‘s freakish elbow damage, this was a greater outcome.

Bellinger, the 2019 NL MVP, has navigated by means of horrific struggles in 2021, ending the common season with a .165/.240/.302 slash line in 350 plate appearances. However he reached base 3 times and stole second base twice with the Dodgers’ season on the road. With two outs, none on and the rating nonetheless tied at 1 within the ninth, Bellinger confronted left-handed reliever T.J. McFarland and labored his second stroll, organising an unfavorable matchup for Cardinals supervisor Mike Shildt.

Bellinger sported a .208 on-base share in opposition to lefties this season, 134 factors shy of the most important league common. Placing collectively that plate look, in that scenario, was an indication that perhaps he’s lastly feeling proper once more.

“At this level, it is time to neglect the season,” Bellinger stated. “Simply transfer on to the postseason, assist this group win any means you’ll be able to.”

Taylor was an All-Star for the primary time this yr, however he batted solely .121/.212/.190 over his final 22 regular-season video games, sustained a neck damage towards the tail finish of that stretch and wasn’t even within the lineup when his group lacked a premier bat in a win-or-go-home sport. As an alternative, Taylor entered for protection within the seventh inning, made a sliding seize in left area with a runner on within the eighth and got here by means of within the ninth, sending a raucous Dodger Stadium crowd of 53,193 right into a frenzy.

Taylor turned the primary participant to hit a postseason walk-off residence run in a sport began on the bench since Jose Lobaton did it with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2013.

“The sport honors you,” Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts stated. “He wished to be in there tonight, however he was prepared when referred to as upon.”

The 106-win Dodgers additionally shall be with out Clayton Kershaw all through this postseason, however their pitching units up properly initially. Walker Buehler shall be absolutely rested to start out Recreation 1 of the NLDS at Oracle Park in San Francisco on Friday, and Julio Urias, who was warming as much as pitch the tenth inning had the wild-card sport gone to extras, can comply with in Saturday’s Recreation 2. Max Scherzer, who battled by means of spotty command to permit one run and file 13 outs on Wednesday, could be prepared on full relaxation for Monday’s Recreation 3.

The current contributions of Bellinger and Taylor present additional optimism heading into what guarantees to be a decent collection in opposition to the 107-win Giants, giving Roberts the flexibleness to play Taylor in middle and Bellinger at first and are available as shut as he can to fielding a lineup at full energy.

As Wednesday’s backside of the ninth continued to play out, Scherzer sat subsequent to Joe Kelly — the person who relieved Scherzer, getting the Dodgers out of a two-on, one-out jam within the fifth — and provided up one other prediction. He stated Bellinger would draw a stroll and Taylor would comply with with a house run, although Scherzer had Taylor driving a fastball to the alternative area versus pulling a slider to left.

Shut sufficient.

“I had that imaginative and prescient for him,” Scherzer stated of Taylor. “I’ve performed with him and confronted him and seen all this. I used to be like, ‘That is the appropriate man for the appropriate spot, and he is gonna put a great swing on it.’ Positive sufficient, he did.”