LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers and Cardinals both made history at different points of the season, meaning the National League Wild Card Game promises to deliver in a big way.
After winning the World Series in 2020, the Dodgers look to become the first team to repeat since the 1998-2000 Yankees. Los Angeles tied a franchise record with 106 wins and has won a franchise-record 15 consecutive games at Dodger Stadium.
Even with a historic season, the Dodgers were unable to extend their dominance in the NL West to nine consecutive seasons as the Giants set a franchise record of their own with 107 wins. At the very least, they earned the right to host the Wild Card Game at Dodger Stadium.
The Cardinals had their fair share of historic moments this season, too. None bigger than a ridiculous franchise-record 17-game winning streak that carried them from Wild Card outsiders to legit contenders. The winning streak came shortly after two consecutive victories over the Dodgers -- an important series split that the club attributes to kick-starting their September winning.
It should be a competitive matchup between two of the most storied franchises in MLB during this one-game playoff. Here’s everything you need to know leading up to the game.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
First pitch at Dodger Stadium will be at 8:10 p.m. ET/7:10 CT/5:10 PT today, and the game will be televised on TBS. It is also available to stream on MLB.TV with authentication.
What are the lineups?
Cardinals: Finally fully healthy in the final two months of the season, the Cardinals took off and displayed the offense they believed was within them all season long. Much of that was due to their outfield, with a torrid winning percentage in the games they were able to start all three this season. The only major question was whether manager Mike Shildt would go with Paul DeJong in place of Edmundo Sosa at shortstop, given the former’s modestly successful history against Scherzer and his steadying postseason experience.
Who are the starters?
Dodgers: Three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer will take the ball for the Dodgers. Since joining Los Angeles, Scherzer is 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA in 11 starts. The Dodgers have won all 11 of his starts. Scherzer, however, has struggled as of late, allowing five earned runs in each of his last two starts.
Cardinals: Forty years old, Adam Wainwright is having more fun pitching than he ever has. It’s not hard to see why: With 17 wins and a 3.05 ERA, he’s earned himself NL Cy Young Award consideration while leading MLB in complete games and finishing just shy of the NL crown in innings pitched. He is no stranger to the big moment with a career 2.89 ERA in the postseason.
What happened during the season series between these clubs?
The Dodgers took the season series, 4-3, in what was an eventful slate of games. In the first meeting, Jack Flaherty exited with an oblique injury that would ultimately sideline him for 2 1/2 months and Tyler O’Neill made a sensational walk-off catch the next day before Los Angeles won the series with 11 first-inning runs in the finale.
In St. Louis, Max Scherzer shoved in his hometown for the first of two Dodgers victories before the Cardinals rallied to split the four-game set. Those two victories would be lauded by the club as crucial for the long winning streak that followed and catapulted them into the postseason.
Are there any injuries of note?
Dodgers: The biggest blow to the Dodgers came on Friday as Clayton Kershaw exited the game with a left elbow injury. Kershaw, who missed nearly three months with a similar injury earlier this season, will not return for the postseason.
Max Muncy will also not be available for the Dodgers due to a left elbow injury that he suffered on Sunday against the Brewers. The first baseman’s availability for the rest of the postseason is in question.
Cardinals: It’s less that the Cardinals are injured and more that they are nursing returning players. Flaherty is coming off a pair of lengthy injuries, the last of which was a right shoulder strain that allowed him to appear in just 17 games (15 starts) and forced him into a bullpen role for the playoffs. Dakota Hudson has impressed in his limited action since returning from Tommy John surgery, while Yadier Molina (right shoulder) and Sosa (right wrist) had been monitoring injuries in the season’s final week but returned over the weekend.
Who’s hot? Who’s not?
Dodgers: Trea Turner wrapped up the NL batting title (.328 average) on Sunday with his second grand slam of the weekend. Turner solidified himself as a legit NL MVP candidate with eight homers since the start of September. He’s also riding a career-high 19-game hitting streak.
Corey Seager might be the only hitter hotter than Turner. The 2020 NL Championship Series and World Series MVP is starting to look like the player who carried the Dodgers last October, hitting nine homers and driving in 21 runs since Sept. 1.
Cardinals: O’Neill, the Cardinals’ biggest breakout player, is coming off one of the best final stretches in franchise history, his 13 long balls in September/October a mark bested by only Mark McGwire. Right behind him is Paul Goldschmidt, who was one of baseball’s best hitters in the second half with a .330 average and slugging percentage north of .600.
Harrison Bader also garnered a Player of the Week nod for what became a sensational final month, while Nolan Arenado, by his standards, wouldn’t mind hitting for more contact and improving his on-base numbers for October.
Are there any changes to rules for this game?
Outside of this being a one-game playoff to decide whose season continues, the Wild Card Game will be played by standard rules. That includes reverting back to the traditional extra-innings guidelines, meaning there will be no runner on second to start any extra frames, should those be necessary.
Have these clubs played in a Wild Card Game before?
The Dodgers have not, whereas the Cardinals were the first team to participate and win the Wild Card Game under the one-game playoff format. In 2012, a year removed from their World Series run, the Cards bested the Braves, 6-3, to advance to the NLDS. That season, they fell to the eventual champion Giants in the NLCS.
What is the postseason history between these two teams?
While the Dodgers and Cardinals haven’t faced off in a Wild Card Game, the two franchises are very familiar with seeing each other in October. Wednesday’s game will be the sixth meeting between the two teams. The Cards have won four of the previous five meetings, including a 3-1 series win in the 2014 NL Division Series that was immortalized in St. Louis by Matt Adams' go-ahead three-run homer off Kershaw in the decisive Game 4.
Do home teams typically have an advantage in the Wild Card Game?
Home teams are only 7-9 in Wild Card Game history. In all winner-take-all postseason games, teams playing in their home ballpark have gone 59-61. (This excludes the 2020 LDS, LCS and World Series).
How has the winner of the Wild Card Game fared in the Division Series?
In Wild Card Game history, the 16 previous winners have proceeded to advance past the Division Series seven times. Three Wild Card Game winners have made it to the World Series, with the 2014 Giants and 2019 Nationals winning championships.