If you’re reading this, you probably don’t need a lot of setup for the situation coming into the NL Wild Card game. Adam Wainwright versus Max Scherzer, setting up what looked like as good a pitching duel as one can ask for. The game delivered, though not in the way most people probably expected. After Scherzer was pulled in the fifth and Wainwright got the hook in the sixth, the bullpens dueled it out for the remainder of the four-plus hour game.
Unfortunately, the Wild Card game essentially came down to one statistic: the Cardinals were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position. The only run that scored for STL crossed the plate on a wild pitch with Tommy Edman on third. The Dodgers’ pitchers made pitches when they had to, and the Cardinals did the same till the ninth when Alex Reyes gave up a two-run shot to Chris Taylor, who walked it off to end the Cardinals’ season with a 3-1 loss.
Cardinals - Tommy Edman led off the game and blooped a broken-bat flyball that landed in front of Mookie Betts for a base hit. Edman stole second on a 1-2 breaking ball in the dirt to Paul Goldschmidt, who drew a walk on a low 3-2 changeup. Tyler O’Neill flew a first-pitch fastball into foul territory in right, where Betts reached over the wall going down the right field line to make the catch. Edman tagged and moved to third on the play, putting runners at the corners with one out for Nolan Arenado. The 0-2 pitch to Arenado was in the dirt and got away from Will Smith, allowing Edman to score from first to give the Redbirds an early 1-0 lead.
Arenado then flew out to left for the second out. Dylan Carlson, with Goldschmidt on second after the wild pitch, grounded a curveball to Corey Seager, who bobbled the transfer and couldn’t make the throw to first in time. Yadier Molina skied a slider to center, retiring the Cardinals in the first.
Dodgers - Betts opened the bottom of the inning with a single on a hard grounder that ate up Edmundo Sosa at short. Seager struck out, frozen by a 2-2 sinker that caught the inside corner. Trea Turner shot a liner to Sosa, who dropped it but managed to get the force at second for the second out. Justin Turner hit a rocket of a comebacker at Wainwright, who snagged it for the final out of the inning.
Cardinals - Sosa started the second with a swinging strikeout on an outside fastball. Harrison Bader drew a six-pitch walk on a front-door slider that missed the inside corner. Wainwright squared to bunt Bader over but worked a full count anyways before getting the bunt down to put Bader in scoring position. Edman got under a fastball and popped out to left to strand Edman.
Dodgers - Smith saw nine pitches before grounding a curveball to Edman, who slid to his right and made a throw across his body to get Smith by half a step.
A.J. Pollock swung under an outside cutter and popped it to Sosa for the second out. Matt Beaty got a hold of a 2-2 cutter and gave it a ride, but it died at the warning track in right for the final out.
Cardinals - Goldschmidt took a 3-2 fastball the other way for a leadoff single into right field. O’Neill was overmatched by Scherzer and went down on three pitches, chasing a slider that dove out of the zone. Arenado hit a swinging bunt to Beaty, who had just enough time to get the lead runner for out number two. Carlson then struck out to give Scherzer a scoreless inning, but he was laboring as it took him 60 pitches to get through three frames.
Dodgers - Cody Bellinger drew a five-pitch walk to begin the Dodgers’ half of the inning and Scherzer moved him over with a sac bunt. Betts lined a sinker to Sosa who dropped the ball after it hit the heel of his glove, allowing Betts to reach on what was generously ruled a hit. Seager worked the count full and drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Trea Turner drew yet another full count, but Wainwright broke his bat on a grounder back up the middle to Edman, who stepped on second and threw to first for the 4-3 double that rescued Wainwright from the jam.
Cardinals - Yadi grounded a 1-2 fastball into the shifted infield for the first out in the fourth. Sosa tapped a slider to Scherzer who threw to first for out number two. Bader got hit by an inside 3-2 slider that didn’t break, extending the inning to Wainwright. Waino struck out waving at a slider, sending the game to the bottom of the fourth.
Dodgers - Justin Turner got a hanging 2-2 curveball and launched it over the wall in left, tying the game at 1-1 and bringing the home crowd to life.
Smith followed with a three-pitch strikeout. Pollock struck out as well, failing to hold a check swing on a 1-2 curveball low and away. Beaty swung out in front of a low curveball and popped out to Yadi to end the inning.
Cardinals - Edman lobbed a 2-2 cutter into right-center for his second broken-bat hit of the evening. Goldschmidt worked a full count and drew a walk on an outside fastball. O’Neill continued to struggle against Scherzer, striking out swinging at a high fastball. The Dodgers went to the bullpen after the strikeout, bringing in Joe Kelly to face Arenado. Nolan chopped a curveball to Justin Turner at third, who tagged out Edman for the second out. The 2-0 pitch to Carlson was spiked into the dirt and allowed Goldschmidt to move to third. Kelly worked back to a full count and struck out Carlson, as the Cardinals failed to convert with two on and no outs.
Dodgers - Bellinger led off and struck out on a foul tip. Luke Raley pinch hit for Kelly and also struck out, chasing an outside fastball. Betts hit a high bouncer to third, where Arenado made a smooth play to get the final out.
Cardinals - Brusdar Graterol relieved Kelly and got Yadi with a routine groundout. Sosa grounded out to second. Bader got hit by another slider for the second time on the night. Wainwright, hitting for himself despite having a pitch count of 83 with the heart of LA’s order coming up, grounded out to Graterol to end the top of the sixth.
Dodgers - Seager grounded out to Sosa in the shift to open the bottom of the frame. Trea Turner hit a swinging bunt down the third baseline and left no throw for Arenado as he reached first for an infield single, ending Wainwright’s night as Luis Garcia came out of the bullpen in relief. Justin Turner got jammed by an inside sinker and flew out to left for the second out. Smith worked back from 0-2 to draw a walk and put two on with two outs. Pollock tapped a sinker back to Garcia who threw the ball to the foul-side of first, where Goldschmidt made a gutsy play to stay in the baseline and make the catch for the final out.
Cardinals - Blake Treinen got the call to pitch the seventh for the Dodgers and struck out Edman on three pitches. Goldschmidt followed and grounded a 3-2 slider to second for the second out. O’Neill drew a five-pitch walk to extend the inning to Arenado. O’Neill stole second on the fifth pitch to Nolan, who then popped out to first, leaving the Cardinals 0-for-9 with RISP through seven innings.
Dodgers - Beaty led off the bottom of the seventh with a groundout into the shift. Bellinger laced an 0-2 splitter up in the zone into right for a one-out hit. Chris Taylor, who came into the game as part of a double switch in the top of the inning, popped out to first for the second out. Bellinger stole second on the 1-1 pitch to Betts who popped out to center to strand him there.
Cardinals - Billy McKinney replaced Beaty at first for LA in the top of the eighth. Carlson beat the shift down the third baseline for a leadoff single. Yadi followed with a flyout to left. Carlson was off with the pitch and had gone past second, but might have missed the bag on the way back to first after the catch. The review came back and appeared inconclusive, leaving Carlson safe at first. Sosa then smoked a sinking liner into left, but Taylor, coming in on the ball, went down to his knees and made the catch for the second out.
Corey Knebel came in to get the last out for LA and struck Bader out swinging over a curveball to strand another Cardinals baserunner.
Dodgers - Giovanny Gallegos came in for the bottom of the eighth as Paul DeJong came in to play short in a double switch. Seager swung out of his helmet, striking out on a breaking ball in the dirt. Trea Turner lined a belt-high slider into left field for a one-out hit. Justin Turner struck out swinging at another slider in the dirt. Smith ripped a four-seamer right at DeJong, who made a jumping catch to rob a hit and end the inning.
Cardinals - Kenley Jansen relieved Knebel in the ninth and struck out DeJong with an elevated fastball. Edman lobbed a cutter into right for his third bloop hit and stole second on the 0-1 pitch to Goldschmidt, who struck out looking at a slider on the outside corner. O’Neill struck out, chasing a 3-2 cutter at eye level, putting the Cards at 0-for-11 with RISP.
Dodgers - T.J. McFarland came in to pitch the bottom of the ninth to face pinch hitter Albert Pujols. Pujols lined out to deep center for the first out. Steven Sousa, Jr. pinch hit for McKinnney and hit a hard liner to center that was also caught by Bader. Bellinger walked on a 3-2 sinker that missed way low and inside. Alex Reyes then relieved McFarland and hung a belt-high slider to Chris Taylor, who put it into the seats in left for a walk-off home run for LA.
The Wild Card game was certainly winnable for the Redbirds, and it’s a tougher loss in that the offense couldn’t show up to support a mostly phenomenal performance from the pitching staff. Everyone would certainly prefer to advance to the NLDS, but the Cardinals making the Wild Card in the first place with their September streak made any October baseball feel like an extra treat at the end of what was sometimes a difficult season of Cardinals baseball. In regards to the future, there’s a lot to look forward to in 2022 with key players getting healthy in the offseason and intriguing free agents hitting the market. Thanks for tuning in for the recaps this season; despite how it ended it was still a ton of fun.
Final Pitching Lines
Wainwright: 5.1 IP / 4 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 2 BB / 5 K / 1 HR
Garcia: 1.2 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
McFarland (L, 0-1): 0.2 IP / 0 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 1 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Reyes: 0 IP / 1 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 1 HR
Scherzer: 4.1 IP / 3 H / 1 R / 1 ER / 3 BB / 4 K / 0 HR
Kelly: 0.2 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Graterol: 1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 0 K / 0 HR
Treinen: 1.2 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 1 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Knebel: 0.1 IP / 0 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 1 K / 0 HR
Jansen (W, 1-0): 1 IP / 1 H / 0 R / 0 ER / 0 BB / 3 K / 0 HR