Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Post 2021 NL Wild Card Game Thread: Chris Taylor Walks It Off

DODGERS 3, CARDINALS 1

With a dramatic walk-off home run that will sit among legendary blasts like Kirk Gibson's in WS 1988, Justin Turner's in NLCS 2017, and Max Muncy's in WS 2018: Chris Taylor just pushed us past the St. Louis Cardinals in the winner-take-all 2021 NL Wild Card Game.

Unbelievable.

The Dodgers should have won this game on paper, what with their 106-win record (16 wins more than St. Louis), but the Cardinals came into this game incredibly hot, winning 19 of their last 22 including their last 11 road games and a franchise record 17-game winning streak wedged in that run.

The Dodgers also ended the season hot, though, including winning their last 15 home games to come up just short of the NL West division victory. But in a winner-take-all Wild Card Game, the best team doesn't always win. And one of these hot streaks was going to fall tonight.

Max Scherzer didn't have it tonight, with his command failing him throughout the game (I think there were seven three-ball counts), ultimately being pulled after 4.1 IP and an uncharacteristic 94 pitches. The LAT accurately described him as "scuffling." Scherzer was pissed when Dave Roberts pulled him. But it ended up being the right call, as Roberts' use of the bullpen through Joe Kelly, Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, and Kenley Jansen was just masterful: 4.2 IP of no-run ball with only two hits (Scherzer had given up three and 6 Ks (Scherzer had 3 Ks, the same amount as Jansen). (Yes, we should qualify for a Jumbo Jack with 10 Ks total.)

But Adam Wainwright wasn't perfect either, lasting 5.1 IP but barely escaping a threat in the third when Trea Turner's broken bat led to an inning-ending GIDP. Wainwright ended up with only 5 Ks, one more than Scherzer, in an inning more of work. Wainwright also conceded a fourth-inning solo shot to Justin Turner that tied the game, and the game traded scoreless innings through the fifth-through-eighth innings.

So rather quickly, this game had become a test of each team's bullpens. The games involving the bullpen arms played out like a tennis match, which the TBS announcers referenced often ("The Dodgers hold serve!"). Luck was going to to end up being a factor here, but I have to hand it to Dave Roberts for making the right bullpen calls at all the right times.

The Cardinals threatened, putting runners on base in multiple innings, using a weak but effective arsenal of bloop singles and inopportune walks, amplified by three stolen bases. But they ultimately were let down by a remarkable 0-for-11 performance with RISP. And even though reliever and former closer (and All-Star) Alex Reyes yielded the Taylor HR in the bottom of the ninth, it was those missed offensive opportunities which doomed the Cardinals.

Not getting a post-date kiss, I reckon.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, went 2-for-5 with RISP. Our offense wasn't great either, with the exceptions of Mookie Betts had two hits (both misplays by Cards SS Edmundo Sosa), Trea Turner (two hits), and Cody Bellinger (a hit and two walks (and two SBs--real credit to Bellinger for making a huge impact in this critical game)). But AJ Pollock, Will Smith, and Corey Seager all went 0-for-3 with at leat one K (Seager had 2 Ks). Still, when we needed to get the big hit, we did.

Full credit to Taylor, who entered the game in a double-switch (for Graterol, as well as Pollock), and popped out to first in the bottom of the seventh. Much was made by the TBS broadcasters who cited Taylor's recent 8-for-72 stretch, not researching that Taylor had basically carried us through the first half of the 2021 season (not to mention, an outstanding defensive play in the top of the eighth on a sinking fly ball to left). But this was Taylor's moment to shine: two out, bottom 9, Bellinger in scoring position, and a 2-1 count (having been fooled badly on a slider earlier in the AB). You knew it as soon as it left the bat; Taylor and squared up his leg kick and everything.

BOOM. We're in the NLDS, and now head up to San Francisco for a pair of games to start a best-of-five series.

But first, let's celebrate. (And it was wonderful to watch the team celebrate in the locker room post-game, channeling all the joy that was stolen from them with the anticlimactic ending of the 2021 regular season, despite the torrid finish to the amazing regular season that did not get justly rewarded!)

UPDATE 10/7: More coverage, I can't resist.

The LAT's Gina Ferazzi took this amazing shot of Chris Taylor as the home run was at the end of its flight. What an awesome photograph. It anchors the WC G1 photos page online, as well as the Sports page print edition.

Also, here's Charley Steiner's call on radio (thank you, SoSG Orel, for pointing this out to me). Good to hear not only Steiner make the correct call on a deep fly ball (a rarity in itself!), but also to hear him lose his mind:

5 comments:

Steve Sax said...

My god I'm still so jazzed from this win. Incredible.

SoSG AC and I as he drove home from the game. He said the Stadium was electric. What a win.

QuadSevens said...

Great recap Sax! I can't stop reading articles about the game and watching replays of CT3's bomb. It was amazing!

Steve Sax said...

I'm right with you, 7777

Added Charley's call

QuadSevens said...

Steiner's call is great! There's another replay, I think from MLB Network, from center field. No commentary, just the audio of the stadium. In it, you can see Arrenado start to walk off the field before the ball is out. He knows it's gone. It's a cool view.

QuadSevens said...

https://tinyurl.com/ByeByeArenado

Here's the video I was talking about.