In a game he didn't even start, utility man Chris Taylor crushed a two-out, two-run walk-off home run high into the Southern California sky to give the defending champion Dodgers a 3–1 win over the Cardinals.
Los Angeles, which finished with the second-best record in the league this season but still had to settle for the first NL wild-card spot, will now advance to the division series and play the Giants, the team that beat them out in the NL West.
This exhilarating win-or-go-home game pitted the 106-win Dodgers against a St. Louis club that won 16 fewer games. But entering the playoffs, there was no hotter team than the Cardinals, who won 17 in a row in September to run away with the second wild-card berth.
Relive all the tension, disappointment and euphoria from L.A.'s epic win in real time with our live blog from Emma Baccellieri and Matt Martell.
All times are in EST.
MM (8:10 p.m.) - As Max Scherzer delivers his first pitch, I'll give my prediction: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3. There is no logic to back this up, which is exactly why this will happen.
EB (8:10 p.m.) - To get us started, here’s one likely NL MVP candidate cheering on another—so wholesome! (Soto is at the park with Nationals hitting coach Kevin Long.)
Yes, the Dodgers are the better team, but it’s one game, and anything can happen. I’ll go L.A. 7, St. Louis 5. I think it’ll be close.
MM (8:12 p.m.) - So, of course, Tommy Edman reaches on a leadoff single.
MM (8:15 p.m.) - Edman just stole second base. The Cardinals have been an elite base running team all season. St. Louis is already threatening in the first.
As I hit send, Goldschmidt walks. Runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out for Tyler O’Neill.
EB (8:18 p.m.) - Mookie Betts covers a lot of ground to get the first out here. But the Dodgers are still in trouble with runners at first and third.
EB (8:19 p.m.) - Scoring first on a wild pitch? That’s some Devil Magic.
MM (8:20 p.m.) - Scoring first off Scherzer seems huge. We’ll see if that actually matters. When the Cardinals score first this season, they are 70–24.
EB (8:22 p.m.) - Ooooof. The Dodgers had a chance to end the inning here and let it pass—this should have been a routine grounder for Seager, and he took too long to get it over to first.
EB (8:23 p.m.) - Luckily for them, it doesn’t come back to bite them, with Scherzer getting an easy out from Yadier Molina next to get out of the jam. But that’s very much not how the Dodgers wanted to start.
MM (8:24 p.m.) - Will this be Corey Seager’s last game with the Dodgers?
EB (8:26 p.m.) - I think there’s a good chance it is. With Trea Turner still under contract for another year and Gavin Lux waiting in the wings, I wouldn’t be surprised if Seager walks this winter… but they have so many options with those three players that I’m not sure they can go wrong.
MM (8:27 p.m.) - I think the Yankees are going to make Seager an offer he can’t refuse. He's a lefty-hitting shortstop who hits for average and power and doesn’t strike out too much. That’s exactly what they need now that Gleyber Torres is back at second base.
MM (8:29 p.m.) - That was a really well-located sinker from Wainwright to strike out Seager looking. I'm really interested in how his curveball-sinker combo works tonight against a really good Dodgers lineup.
EB (8:34 p.m.) - And Wainwright does it all—saved himself a baserunner there with a really sharp defensive play to end the inning.
MM (8:34 p.m.) - He gives me hope that aging won’t be so bad.
MM (8:37 p.m.) - Let’s talk about Edmundo Sosa for a bit while he steps in here.
EB (8:39 p.m.) - He was an underrated part of the Cardinals’ second-half, I think—when the team decided to start playing him over DeJong, it seemed very much like it was done with the idea that if you’re not going to have a great hitter at shortstop, you should at least have the best defender possible. But, in addition to his defense, Sosa far exceeded expectations at the plate! An .815 OPS in the second half.
MM (8:39 p.m.) - Paul DeJong really became too one-dimensional this season. He hits for power, and nothing else. He plays good defense, but Sosa is even better. He hits for a higher average, gets on base more and can run. I wonder if he’ll be their starting shortstop long term instead of DeJong, or if this is just a short-term thing.
MM (8:45 p.m.) - Is Scherzer going to walk Wainwright here?
EB (8:46 p.m.) - Aw, man, we almost had it! A pretty nice sac bunt by Wainwright, though.
EB (8:48 p.m.) - That’s 43 pitches for Scherzer through the second.
Which is not ideal! While he was able to get through the last inning more easily than the first, it’s still troubling that he’s been taxed this much this early, and in a win-or-go-home, I’d expect them to consider going to the bullpen as early as they reasonably can
MM (8:49 p.m.) - If Dave Roberts makes an error with managing his pitching, it tends to be sticking with his starters for too long, especially with aces like Scherzer. I wonder how long Scherzer will keep going if the Dodgers don’t score.
I can’t imagine them lifting him for a pinch-hitter before his first time up if the score stays 1–0. But will he see his second plate appearance if that’s the score? Going to be an interesting decision for Roberts.
MM (8:52 p.m.) - Also, here’s the Statcast FieldVision animation of the Wainwright come-backer catch.
It’s hilarious, but also really interesting to watch.
EB (8:53 p.m.) - Did you see the one of the Hernández-Bogaerts relay last night? It’s also amazing to look at.
MM (8:54 p.m.) - WHAT A PLAY!
EB (8:54 p.m.) - Wow, some really sharp defense from the Cardinals across the board here, and that right there from Tommy Edman is the sharpest of all.
MM (8:55 p.m.) - Tommy Edman robs Will Smith of a single up the middle. Also, nice stretch from Goldschmidt.
MM (8:56 p.m.) - I think it’s probably just his chin, but I’ve always thought A.J. Pollock kinda looked like Ben Affleck.
MM (8:58 p.m.) - Did Brian Anderson just say that Matt Beaty flyout sounded a little chunky?
EB (9:00 p.m.) - Yes and I started hustling to get this immediately:
MM (9:00 p.m.) - WHAT?!
EB (9:00 p.m.) - Omg yes. It went viral.
MM (9:01 p.m.) - You really explain all things viral online to me.
EB (9:02 p.m.) - My brain is broken.
MM (9:03 p.m.) - OK, back to baseball.
Goldschmidt, who just ripped a single to right field, should be in the MVP conversation. Not top three. But maybe top five? He’s been great since June, and he’s gotten better every month. He’s one of the main reasons the Cardinals are in the playoffs.
MM (9:08 p.m.) - Beaty looked really uncomfortable making that throw to second base to get Goldschmidt for the force out. He’s in there because of his bat, not his glove. Is there a chance we’ll see 41-year-old Albert Pujols come in as a defensive replacement for Beaty at first base? That would be pretty funny.
EB (9:08 p.m.) - Please give us that. Please.
But, man, on the subject of Beaty—obviously this team is deep, but they really do miss Max Muncy.
EB (9:09 p.m.) - Well, Matt Beaty must have heard us, because he made a nice snag down the line there to end the inning.
MM (9:10 p.m.) - They could also move Cody Bellinger to first base for defense, although they may want to keep his glove in CF.
EB (9:16 p.m.) - Are we going to see Scherzer work a walk off Wainwright?
MM (9:16 p.m.) - I really don’t know. That third ball looked like a strike to me.
EB (9:17 p.m.) - Yeah, the strike zone tonight hasn’t been as noticeably weird as it was last night, but there have been some questionable calls for sure.
And instead of a walk, we have a sac bunt.
MM (9:17 p.m.) - Emma, Joe West has never missed a call.
EB (9:19 p.m.) - Betts singled to Sosa, who was able to knock it down, but he didn’t handle it very smoothly and Goldschmidt was off the base when Sosa went to throw to first. That puts runners at first and second with one out.
That was not an easy play by any means but it’s one that you’d expect this defense to be able to make, I think.
MM (9:23 p.m.) - Bases loaded, one out for the NL batting champ Trea Turner, who is tough to double up. My guess is Wainwright keeps going curveballs here, to see if he gets Turner off balance to pop up.
EB (9:27 p.m.) - Huuuuge double play for the Cardinals there with a broken-bat grounder from Turner.
MM (9:27 p.m.) - Took Edman right to the bag. Any delay and Turner probably beats it out with a run scoring.
EB (9:28 p.m.) - And a strange pitch to swing at, too!
MM (9:29 p.m.) - Was he just swinging no matter what? Did he think he was getting a hanger? That’s just confounding.
EB (9:29 p.m.) - It must have been something like that—but very uncharacteristic of him! Yikes.
MM (9:36 p.m.) - Bader is really making Scherzer work. So much for a quick inning. He’s about to throw his 75th pitch with two outs in the fourth inning.
And pitch No. 75 hits Bader.
MM (9:39 p.m.) - Was Wainwright the last batter Scherzer will face tonight?
He’s at 78 pitches and he’s got the top of the Cardinals’ order for the third time through to begin next inning.
EB (9:40 p.m.) - I think there’s a decent chance it is—if this were Game 1 of a series, where you’re looking ahead to manage your bullpen, I’d think Roberts might see how he starts the next inning, but here, I think the safest move is to pull him.
MM (9:41 p.m.) - If Scherzer was cruising after allowing the one run in the first inning, I’d probably stick with him until it was time to pinch hit for him, because 78 pitches isn’t a lot for him. But he hasn’t looked sharp all night.
MM (9:42 p.m.) - Now, though, I don’t know. Roberts might stick with him. It’s not an easy call. Could get the bullpen up and let Scherzer start the inning. Then, first sign of trouble, you pull him.
EB (9:44 p.m.) - Well, this just got a little more interesting. Justin Turner takes Wainwright deep on a hanging curveball to make it 1–1.
MM (9:45 p.m.) - Does that home run change anything with how the Dodgers should handle Scherzer?
EB (9:46 p.m.) - I do think I’d let him start the inning. But I still would be very hesitant to let him go deep and would be prepared to pull him at the first sign of trouble.
MM (9:47 p.m.) - I think I would do the same.
MM (9:54 p.m.) - Wainwright now has 73 pitches through four innings. My guess is Mike Shildt won’t worry too much about his pitch count, especially because he made the last out of the fourth. But unless the Cardinals score some runs and Wainwright has a quick inning or two, he shouldn’t see his next plate appearance.
Scherzer is still in there to start the fifth.
EB (9:56 p.m.) - And he allows a broken-bat single to the lead-off hitter, Tommy Edman.
Really curious to see how quick of a hook Roberts has with him here.
MM (9:57 p.m.) - Joe Kelly is warming up now, but this is a tough spot for Scherzer to navigate. Edman could very well swipe second again, and Goldschmidt has reached base twice.
That’s Cardinals legend Joe Kelly, by the way.
MM (10:01 p.m.) - First and second, nobody out with Tyler O’Neill coming up. Scherzer’s at 89 pitches and still in the game.
EB (10:05 p.m.) - Scherzer gets a huge strikeout there of O’Neill, but Roberts pulls him anyway—I think that’s probably for the best.
MM (10:06 p.m.) - That was pretty great. Scherzer shook Roberts’s hand as Roberts asked him for the baseball.
Joe Kelly is in to face Nolan Arenado with runners on first and second and one out in the fifth inning. Game tied 1–1.
EB (10:07 p.m.) - This was a tough call. I’m a little surprised that they let Scherzer see the top of the order for a third time and then pulled him, but I think it was likely wise not to let him go much further.
MM (10:08 p.m.) - He finally looked his best there when he struck out O’Neill. But he was nearing the end either way.
EB (10:09 p.m.) - Yeah, there was one slider in that strikeout—I believe the second pitch?—that O’Neill whiffed on that was just absolutely gorgeous.
MM (10:11 p.m.) - That was excellent base running by Edman on that grounder to Justin Turner. He stopped midway through the baseline and forced Turner to try and tag him instead of throwing to second base to start the double-play attempt.
EB (10:12 p.m.) - If we want to noodle on the decision to pull Scherzer a little longer...
This situation seems different to me!
Snell was dealing last year. Scherzer, though he’d certainly had some nice moments, like the O’Neill strikeout, did not look fully in control.
MM (10:13 p.m.) - I agree. Eovaldi was dealing, similarly to Snell last year. This was different. Scherzer was laboring.
EB (10:14 p.m.) - Goldschmidt advances to third on a wild pitch—that’s Joe Kelly’s first of the year!
EB (10:16 p.m.) - Man, what a pretty curveball to strike out Carlson.
That ends the inning, which means the move to pull Scherzer has paid off—so far.
MM (10:17 p.m.) - Kelly just kept going to the curve until he threw one that Carlson swung through.
EB (10:19 p.m.) - Now to discuss the other half of the pulling-the-starter convo here: How comfortable are you with Wainwright here? He’s generally looked more comfortable throughout the night and his pitch count is still reasonable (75). But he’s about to see the top of the order for the third time.
MM (10:21 p.m.) - I’m more comfortable with Wainwright here. He’s looked better throughout the game than Scherzer did. Aside from the bases-loaded third inning, he’s had little trouble. The Justin Turner home run came quickly. And he's struck out four of the last five hitters he's faced since then.
MM (10:24 p.m.) - And he’s through five innings at 83 pitches. Shildt will probably pinch hit for him his next time up if the game is still tied. But he’s showing no signs of fatigue.
MM (10:28 p.m.) - Wainwright is in the on-deck circle. And I wonder if it’s because the Cardinals’ bench isn’t as deep as L.A.’s is.
EB (10:29 p.m.) - Wainwright about to hit for himself! Which, as you said, there are plenty of reasons to stick with him here. But I’m a little surprised.
MM (10:30 p.m.) - And he grounds out on the first pitch. But he wasn't exactly in there to get a hit.
EB (10:32 p.m) - This is exactly what you’re risking here:
But, Wainwright has looked decently comfortable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes it through this frame just fine.
MM (10:33 p.m.) - I actually think this was the right decision. I may have more faith than most in Wainwright, but here we are.
MM (10:39 p.m.) - Of course that’s how the Dodgers reach base off Wainwright here: a dribbler to third base that not even Arenado can make a play on. Here comes Justin Turner, whose home run in the fourth inning is L.A.'s only run in the game.
MM (10:41 p.m.) - Wow—Shildt takes Wainwright out. Here comes Luis García.
This situation seems closer to the Snell/Eovaldi decision than the Scherzer one.
EB (10:44 p.m.) - I agree with you on the move to pull Wainwright… I see the case for it, but it’s a bit of a quick hook after letting him hit for himself, and it definitely seems to share more DNA with the Eovaldi and Snell decisions we were discussing earlier.
MM (10:45 p.m.) - I would've left him in. I think if Justin Turner wasn't the batter, Shildt would've left him in.
EB (10:49 p.m.) - Yeesh, ball four to Will Smith. That’s two on with two out.
MM (10:54 p.m.) - Looks like the Dodgers chased another pitch out of the zone for the final out. Pollock dribbles a grounder to García, who throws to first in time. The throw was up the line a bit, but Goldschmidt made a great play to snag the throw with the runner closing in.
Anything goes wrong there for the Cardinals, the Dodgers have the lead because Trea Turner was on his way home.
EB (10:55 p.m.) - That really is a curious swing there from Pollock. The Dodgers typically aren’t free-swingers like this! Their chase rate as a team is 27.8%—the lowest in baseball.
MM (10:59 p.m.) - This is a great game. Really enjoying it.
EB (11:00 p.m.) - Yes! Last night’s was far more hyped up—the rivalry, the fact that it came down to the last day of the season, etc.—but this one has been far more fun.
MM (11:06 p.m.) - Big moment here. Tyler O’Neill swipes second to put the go-ahead runner in scoring position with two outs. Count is 2–2 to Arenado.
EB (11:06 p.m.) - Wow. Treinen gets him to pop out in foul territory to end the inning.
I know we just said it but—what a game!
MM (11:11 p.m.) - Seventh-inning prediction: The Cardinals are going to win this game unless Albert Pujols hits a walk-off home run to eliminate St. Louis.
And Bellinger laces a one-out single to right field. Chris Taylor is pinch-hitting for Treinen.
EB (11:12 p.m.) - A Pujols walk-off is too good. I want it.
EB (11:15 p.m.) - Ooooof. Go-ahead run in scoring position after Bellinger swipes second base—that one was close, but he had a good lead and Yadi just didn’t get that throw off quickly enough.
MM (11:16 p.m.) - And García gets out of trouble. Betts flies out to Bader to end the threat.
The second-most meme-able player in baseball?
EB (11:20 p.m.) - This is my favorite Belli meme but tonight’s is a great addition to the canon of pictures where he looks, ah, not entirely there.
MM (11:22 p.m.) - Great piece of hitting by Carlson there to shoot a hard groundball the other way away from the shift for a leadoff single.
MM (11:25 p.m.) - The Dodgers are challenging to see if Carlson retouched second base after he rounded it on the fly out to left. I don’t think he retouched. If he didn’t, it will be a double play. This is a crucial call.
EB (11:26 p.m.) - Yep. I don’t think he did.
Wow! Safe. I don’t know about that.
MM (11:27 p.m.) - That’s really lucky for the Cardinals. They must not have had enough evidence to overturn it. But wow.
EB (11:27 p.m.) - Really hard to tell on the replay, though ... I suppose I can understand feeling like that’s not enough to overturn. But that might end up being absolutely pivotal.
EB (11:28 p.m.) - And a critical catch from Chris Taylor there to get the second out—you saw him checking his positioning card after that one, and wow, he really was set up nicely there for that one.
MM (11:29 p.m.) - Will he lose the card? And will the Cardinals take it??
MM (11:30 p.m.) - That’ll do it for Treinen. The Dodgers are going to Corey Knebel to face Harrison Bader with Carlson on first and two outs in the eighth.
EB (11:36 p.m.) - Oooooh, wow, that was a gorgeous curveball from Knebel…. just on the edge of zone and called a ball.
MM (11:37 p.m.) - And then he throws an even better one and gets Bader to cut through it.
EB (11:45 p.m.) - Trea Turner on base with a single, and you’ve gotta think he’s a base-stealing threat right now.
MM (11:46 p.m.) - For sure. Gallegos will probably keep going with his breaking ball with Justin Turner up, so Trea Turner should get a decent pitch to run on.
MM (11:48 p.m.) - So, of course, Gallegos starts Justin Turner off with two heaters for strikes one and two.
MM (11:50 p.m.) - That was a nasty breaking ball to get Justin Turner swinging for the second out. Here’s Will Smith.
EB (11:51 p.m.) - WOW. Paul DeJong with an absolutely huge catch there. They only subbed him in for Sosa at the start of this half-inning, with the double switch, and even though Sosa is generally the better defender, that sure worked right there.
MM (11:53 p.m.) - Exactly. DeJong will lead off the ninth. He has the power to put the Cardinals ahead with one swing. And he’s also a pretty strong defender, if not as good as Sosa.
EB (11:54 p.m.) - This game is going to go at least 13 innings. I can feel it in my bones.
MM (11:57 p.m.) - Tommy Edman singles to right field with one out.
Kenley Jansen is awful at holding runners on base. Opponents are 50-for-50 on stolen-base attempts with Jansen on the mound since 2017. Edman has to be running here.
MM (11:59 p.m.) - And Edman swipes it. He's the go-ahead run at second base, with an 0–2 count on Goldschmidt with one out.
MM (12:01 a.m.) - I’d have Edman try to steal third here too.
EB (12:02 a.m.) - Yeah, ninth inning, tie game, I say go for it. Be as aggressive as possible with Jansen on the mound.
MM (12:02 a.m.) - Wild pitch scored him in the first. It could happen again if he’s on third.
MM (12:05 a.m.) - Wow, just foul. O’Neill just missed a go-ahead double down the right-field line.
EB (12:06 a.m.) - Wow. A huge, huge swinging strikeout there from Jansen to end the top of the ninth.
MM (12:06 a.m.) - This game is going to extras unless Pujols gets up.
MM (12:08 a.m.) - And here comes Albert.
EB (12:09 a.m.) - This really would be the perfect ending.
MM (12:10 a.m.) - The Dodgers announced Gavin Lux as the pinch-hitter. The Cardinals then called on the lefty T.J. McFarland. So the Dodgers countered. Pujols is pinch-hitting to lead off the ninth. Epic.
MM (12:13 a.m.) - Pujols lines out to deep center field for the first out. Just gets it off the end of the bat. Smoked it.
EB (12:17 a.m.) - Good hard contact from Souza there, too! But again—caught easily in the outfield.
MM (12:17 a.m.) - Two away for Bellinger, lefty vs. lefty.
Also, it’s hilarious that the Dodgers are carrying 16 position players on their roster.
EB (12:18 a.m.) - It really is—I get that the wild-card roster is obviously going to look far different than any series roster, but it’s still just so Dodgers to build yourself a bench like this.
MM (12:19 a.m.) - And then still to not platoon pinch-hit for Bellinger here.
MM (12:20 a.m.) - So, of course, he works a two-out walk. Here comes a pitching change. Alex Reyes coming in to face Chris Taylor.
MM (12:25 a.m.) - OH MY GOODNESS. Bellinger steals second again!
Molina doesn’t even get a throw off!
EB (12:25 a.m.) - AHHHHHHHHH
MM (12:25 a.m.) - Another great jump for Bellinger. Molina had no chance there even with a clean grip.
EB (12:25 a.m.) - CHRIS TAYLOR WALK-OFF! Dodgers win 3–1.
EB (12:29 a.m.) - A parting thought on this one—what a game for Bellinger, who’s obviously had an uncharacteristically lackluster season. Got aboard consistently and had some great, aggressive base-running.
MM (12:30 a.m.) - That was fun. That does it for our wild-card live blogs. But keep it here at SI.com/MLB for all our of postseason coverage.
Also, you can sign up for our new Five-Tool Newsletter, which is sent directly to your inboxes every day during the 2021 playoffs.
Thanks for reading along with us everyone. Have a great night.
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