LOS ANGELES — It had to be.
Baseball’s two best teams – the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants – will add a chapter to their ancient rivalry after Chris Taylor’s two-run, walk-off home run in the ninth inning Wednesday night gave the Dodgers a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League wild-card game.
The best-of-five NL Division Series will start Friday night at Oracle Park, featuring two teams that have each won 107 games.
Taylor was an unlikely hero after going ice cold down the stretch. He batted .108 (7 for 65) with 26 strikeouts in his last 25 games of the regular season.
But Taylor came up with two outs and Cody Bellinger in scoring position against Cardinals reliever Alex Reyes and crushed a 2-and-1 slider for the game-winner.
Long before that, the pitching matchup for the aged went to bed early.
This was not the weapons-grade Max Scherzer the Dodgers saw for nine starts after his trade-deadline arrival from Washington.
He went to a full count on five of the first 10 batters he faced Wednesday, walked three (matching his total for his final six regular-season starts) and threw 78 pitches just to get through four innings. Seven Cardinals batters took him to full counts and five reached base (three walks, a hit batter and a single).
But Scherzer put his foot down when he had to, holding the Cardinals to 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position. Their lone run against Scherzer scored on a wild pitch when Dodgers catcher Will Smith couldn’t smother a slider in the dirt with Tommy Edman on third base in the first inning.
Edman led off the fifth with another single and Scherzer walked Paul Goldschmidt for the second time. Scherzer blew a 95-mph fastball past Tyler O’Neill on his 94th pitch of the night – and his last.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts came to get Scherzer after 4-1/3 innings and 21 batters. It was Scherzer’s shortest postseason start since he gave up six runs in 2-1/3 innings for the Detroit Tigers against the Texas Rangers in Game 6 of the 2011 ALCS.
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Roberts’ early hook did not please Scherzer who did not give up the ball (Roberts reached into his glove and took it after shaking Scherzer’s other hand) and stalked the dugout briefly after departing.
But it proved timely. Joe Kelly worked out of the jam, getting Nolan Arenado to bounce into a forceout and striking out Dylan Carlson with a nasty curveball.
Meanwhile, 40-year-old Adam Wainwright escaped a bases-loaded situation with one out in the third inning, getting Trea Turner to bounce into a double play, only to give up a solo home run to Justin Turner in the fourth.
It was Justin Turner’s 13th postseason home run (extending his franchise record). Only one active player has more – teammate Albert Pujols (19).
But Turner’s homer was one of only three balls the Dodgers hit out of the infield in six innings against Wainwright and reliever Luis Garcia. Their other three hits in that time were infield singles.
Bellinger lit the fuse harmlessly enough, drawing a two-out walk and stealing second base before Taylor’s walk-off home run.
More to come on this story.
Taylor-made ending. pic.twitter.com/sQviI5S0fr
— MLB (@MLB) October 7, 2021