Dodgers and Cardinals face off in joker game on Sportsnet after historic seasons
“Life is unfair.”
– Los Angeles Dodgers, probably
If you can’t bring yourself to pity the Los Angeles Dodgers, the ones who have spent over $ 60 million this season on every other team, we get it. But in the eyes of some, the defending World Series champions had a rough deal.
The Dodgers have won 106 games, which is both a franchise record and the most wins ever for a team that didn’t win their division (or league). In 82 games since Canada Day, their winning percentage of 0.695 is the league’s highest.
And yet they’re gearing up here for a nine-inning toss or tails, which takes place Thursday in the form of the National League Wild Card game (8:10 p.m. ET on Sportsnet and SN Now). They will host the St. Louis Cardinals, who advanced to the playoffs in large part on a franchise-record 17-game winning streak in September.
No matter where they come from, the Dodgers and Cardinals have a game to decide who faces the league-leading San Francisco Giants in the next round. Cardinals manager Mike Shildt is happy to do so.
“If we go where we want to go, we would like to go with the team that just won it the year before,” Shildt said via Zoom regarding the date with the Dodgers. “So we might as well start with that right off the bat. “
Here are some of the main storylines of Wednesday’s showdown:
On the mound, not on the hill
Adam Wainwright, 40, of St. Louis, and Max Scherzer, 37, of Los Angeles, are two of the majors ‘four oldest starting pitchers – and they will face each other in their respective clubs’ biggest game of the season .
Wainwright has made his home in the win column, going 10-1 with a 2.28 ERA in his last 14 starts (of which the Cardinals have won 13). Then there’s Scherzer, who looks like one of the biggest trade deadline acquisitions of all time (he’s 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts wearing Dodger Blue).
The advantage in this game belongs to Scherzer, although his last two starts – 11 points allowed in 10 1/3 innings – have been disastrous. But the St. Louis native has proven he can handle his home club in situations like this. In his last three playoff starts against the Cardinals, dating back to Game 2 of the 2019 NLCS, Scherzer is 3-0 with an unearned run awarded and 33 strikeouts in 21 innings.
“It will be a battle for all of us, our roster,” said Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter, who has faced Scherzer 62 times in his career. “But I don’t think there’s anyone more prepared than us, and I don’t think there’s anyone we’d rather have on the mound than Waino.”
Does the defense win the jokers?
Everyone knows the old adage “Defense wins championships”, but can it be applied to just one Sudden Death match? The cardinals hope so.
Led by corner players Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who combined for 11 Gold Glove Awards, St. Louis has arguably the majors’ best defense. In a playoff game, a game that saves a hit or a point could make all the difference.
At Fangraphs, St. Louis ranks second in runs recorded by distance (ie Range Runs) and fourth in the catch-all statistic, Ultimate Zone Rating. At Baseball Savant, the Cardinals lead the majors in Outs Above Average, blocked runs, and hit rate on in-play balls. There are countless defensive metrics to go, but the point here is that they all provide one. similar message: the Cardinals are taking care of the business on the pitch.
Carpenter, who made his Cardinals debut in 2011, called the ’21 squad the best defensive team they’ve ever seen.
“It’s pretty special to watch,” he said. “I expect him to be true to what he’s been doing all year in the playoffs for us.”
Muncy outside… who is inside?
A first-base collision in Sunday’s season finale forced Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy out of the game, and now his team are wondering who will take his place.
Muncy’s all-star season featured career highs in the Homesteads (36) and OPS (0.895), meaning he cannot be easily replaced. When asked about potential candidates for Wednesday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts vaguely said the decision would be “game-driven”, and that offensive and defensive value would be taken into account.
One option is Cody Bellinger, the ousted former MVP whose OPS + this season (45) is barely a third of his career (126). He is 1 for 8 for life against Wainwright. Matt Beaty is another option, but he’s been used as a pinch hitter in 20 of his last 21 games.
The funniest option is Albert Pujols, who is destined to enter Cooperstown with a Cardinals cap after spending his first 11 seasons with them. Due to Wainwright’s fairly even divisions (.655 OPS allowed left-handed, .595 allowed right-handed), this might work for right-handed Pujols.
At the moment, we really don’t know. But a subplot “Pujols vs. St. Louis ”is more than welcome.