How a 106 Win Team is Playing in the Wild Card Game


Photo via Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

Drew Stahl, Co Sports Editor

Heading into the 2021 Postseason, the first games on the schedule are the Wildcard games; one in the American League and one in the National League. This year, the NL Wild Card Game will be between the St. Louis Cardinals and the 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers. How did this happen? To understand it, one has to look at how the Postseason is set up, and the other teams in the National League.

The way that the current Postseason system works is that the three division winners are automatically in the postseason. The next best two finishers, by record, will play in a winner-take-all match up with the right to enter the postseason bracket. Most recently, the 2019 Washington Nationals won the World Series as a Wild Card team. 

In the case of this year, the Dodgers are in the NL West, widely known as one of, if not the best, division in all of baseball. With the Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and San Francisco Giants, this division was not going to be an easy one to win. 

The Padres got off to a hot start, but ended up having a historic collapse in late August, leading them to be eliminated from the playoffs in mid-September. The Giants were a team that no one saw being quite this good. In fact, looking at preseason predictions from Sports Illustrated, the Giants were projected to finish 3rd, with 79 wins. The Giants finished with 107 wins, and won the division as a result.

The LA Dodgers were picked by many to win the World Series for a second straight year. They had a top tier pitching staff with elite players at each position. Their odds jumped even higher when they acquired Nationals star players SS Trea Turner and SP Max Scherzer. After this trade which was finalized in late July, the Dodgers were almost unanimously picked to win the title. One team was in their way: the San Francisco Giants.

The Giants started the year red hot and were in first place of the division halfway through the season. On July 1st, the Giants had a ½ game lead over the Dodgers. On August 1st, the Giants had a 3 game lead over the Dodgers. September 1st, with one month left, it was the Dodgers with a ½ game lead over the Giants. In 2 weeks time, the Giants took back 1st place, and had a 1 game lead over the Dodgers. At this point, the Padres, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks, were all eliminated; it was a 2 week sprint to the finish between the Dodgers and Giants.

The timeline to this point goes as follows:

Friday October 1st, the Giants’ magic number is 2. They have a 1 game lead over the Dodgers. If the Giants win, and the Dodgers lose, the Giants win the division. On that day, the Giants and Dodgers both won. The Giants magic number is 1 going into the final day of the regular season.

Both games started around the same time: 3:05 PM EST. The entire slate of MLB games all start at the same time on the final day of the regular season to avoid any possible collusion. Fans of both teams, mainly Dodgers fans, were scoreboard-watching. This is a term that means exactly what it sounds like: watching the scoreboard to keep track of the team(s) fighting for a spot. Simply put, if the Giants win, they win the division. The Dodgers needed to win and for the Giants to lose. It didn’t happen. The Dodgers did all they could, beating the Milwaukee Brewers 10-3. But at the end of the afternoon, the Giants beat the Padres 11-4, sending the Dodgers to the dreaded, single-elimination Wild Card Game, and the Giants to the Division Series.

Photo via Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group

All year long, it was all about the Dodgers. But they fell one game short. The Dodgers won 106 games, and did not win the division. This team is the best Wild Card team since the installation of the game in 1995. 

On Wednesday night, the Dodgers will take on the Cardinals, who had a 17 game winning streak earlier in September. It will be former Nats ace, Max Scherzer, against Cardinals legend, Adam Wainwright. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 EST. The entire baseball world will be watching.

It will be a massive let down if the Dodgers lose this game. Anything can happen in a single game, and some experts have been picking the Cardinals to upset the Dodgers. 

Was it a disappointing year for the Dodgers, we don’t know just yet, but Wednesday night will be the deciding factor to determine that. If the Dodgers lose, it will certainly be a disappoint for all players, fans, and front office. If they win, it sky is the limit for how far the Dodgers can go in the 2021 Postseason.

My Prediction:  Dodgers win 7-4. Max Scherzer will go 6 innings and the Dodgers will hit 3 home runs. The Cardinals will never have the lead in this game because the Dodgers will score 3 runs in the first inning. Scherzer will be too much for the Cardinals lineup, and will tally up 8 strikeouts. The Dodgers will move on to face the Giants, yes those Giants, in the NLDS. If this were to all come true, we will see two 100 win teams in a Division Series for the first time in the Wild-Card era.