The Five Biggest Questions Heading into the Dodgers vs. Cardinals Wild Card Game Tonight

Can the Dodgers solve Adam Wainwright's curveball and other crucial queries.

Hi friends- We’re going to do a live chat during tonight’s game between the Cardinals and Dodgers. I’ll send out a link at 4:30 ET. Hope to see you there!

Well, it’s October 6th and the Dodgers are facing game 163 tonight. I know it’s *technically* a playoff game, but it sure doesn’t feel like the MLB postseason begins until a baseball team is given at least a little wiggle room to play nine crappy innings and still advance to the next round.

No 106-win team wants to endure a do-or-die playoff game, but we all need to move past whining about the wild card rules. (Unless the Dodgers lose tonight, of course, in which case Angelenos, myself included, will justifiably bitch and moan for the next four months).

Actually, let’s bitch and moan one last time: are we really making a team that won 106 games in the regular season participate in a one-game playoff to even make the NL Division series? This feels like… a trap.

Anyone who tells you they know how this game will end Is lying. Do I think Max Scherzer will go out and shove because he’s a living legend? Of course. There’s no one in baseball I’d rather have on the mound with the season on the line tonight than Scherzer. Do I also think Adam Wainwright can match Scherzer pitch for pitch? Absolutely. If you’ve been reading this newsletter since August when I launched it, you know I’ve been praising the Cardinals left and right. Tyler O’Neill is perhaps the best MLB player you’ve never heard of. The team has 17 homegrown guys on their roster tonight, including Wainwright and Yadier Molina, who are experts at navigating playoff games together.

This newsletter is reader supported. For the full experience, I invite you to take out a paid subscription now.

If you read my book you know the Cardinals have been my own personal baseball terrorists since 2013, and wrecked the happy ending to my life’s work. (lol *cries*). Strangely, even though the Cards knocked the Dodgers out of the playoffs in 2013 and 2014, they have not won the World Series since 2011. The Dodgers are fresh off last year’s world title and are looking to become the first team to repeat since the 1999/2000 Yankees. To have even a prayer of doing that, the Dodgers need to beat the Cardinals tonight. Here are the five things I’m looking for during the game tonight:

  1. Can the Dodgers handle Adam Wainwright’s curveball?

    Wainwright may be 40 but his curveball looks 27. For much of the year there seemed to be some uncertainty over whether Wainwright would return to pitch again next season, which confused me because I’ve watched him pitch a lot this year. The dude looks as good as he did back in 2014 when he led the majors in innings pitched. How does that translate into the playoffs? The last time Wainwright faced the Dodgers a month ago he dominated them, pitching into the 8th inning. I don’t see manager Mike Shildt letting Waino go that long tonight unless he’s been unhittable (which is possible!). Seven scoreless from Wainwright against a lineup that a) can’t hit curveballs and b) is missing Max Muncy at first doesn’t seem completely out of the question. Unless his curveball stinks. In that case, he and the Cardinals are done. But if that big hook is working? Not great!

  1. Can the Dodgers generate offense without Max Muncy hitting cleanup?

    I truly cannot believe Muncy dislocated his elbow on a dumb play in a blowout victory over the Brewers during the last game of the season. What an absolutely brutal blow for the Dodgers, especially since one of their other big lefty bats, Cody Bellinger, has had the worst year of any player in MLB this year. He hit .165 with a .542 on base plus slugging percentage. To give you an idea of how horrible that is for him, when he won the 2019 MVP he slugged .629! Muncy told reporters yesterday that he was able to pop his elbow back in, but ligament damage may end his postseason. Obviously! Muncy has a high pain tolerance and would undoubtedly try to play through the injury should the Dodgers advance deep into October, but there’s no way you can count on his bat until at least next season. Corey Seager has looked amazing at the plate in September, and maybe he can pick up the slack vs. a righty like Wainwright. Heck, maybe righty AJ Pollock can avenge the 0-for-13 with 11 strikeouts performance he turned in during the 2019 NLDS and carry the Dodgers to victory?

  2. Can the Dodgers 7-8-9 hitters produce…anything?

    Playoff games are all about counting 27 outs. Max Scherzer set a major league record this year for number of plate appearances in a season without a hit or a walk with 63. He will enter tonight’s game as the surest out at the plate in MLB history. If he bats three times, that’s three outs for the Cardinals. Cody Bellinger will hit 8th, and, as mentioned above, he’s barely been better than Scherzer this year. Matt Beaty will get the start at first in place of the injured Muncy. He languished in the minor leaguers for more than half this season, and only collected 204 ABs. These three cannot equal nine to twelve outs for the Cardinals. Even if Wainwright dominates them, they’ve got to figure out a way to put the ball in play to move over runners or challenge the defense. Bellinger’s power got destroyed by his shoulder injury, and it will be gone until he has a chance to build muscle back in the offseason. But he’s still fast as hell. I don’t think trying to bunt for a hit is the worst idea, here. Beaty, Bellinger or Scherzer trying to safety squeeze is also an option. They just cannot represent three straight outs each time through the Dodger lineup. I’m not sure even Scherzer can overcome that kind of gift to St. Louis.

  3. Will the Dodgers win for the 12th(!) straight time with Max Scherzer on the mound?

    I don’t know if you heard, but the Dodgers traded for Max Scherzer back on July 30. All they’ve done since then is win every single game he’s started, making him the single best midseason trade in Dodger history. (It’s just math). At some point, Scherzer will have to lose because nobody’s perfect, especially in the playoffs. And in looking at the numbers, I do wonder if Scherzer’s superlative season is low on steam. In his first nine starts for the Dodgers spanning 58 innings, Scherzer gave up only five earned runs. In his last two starts (10.1 innings), he gave up 11 earned runs. Now, one of those starts happened in Colorado so it doesn’t really count. The other, though, came last week against a lowly Padre team that punted their season in early August. Will the real Max Scherzer show up tonight? Or will it be Lacks Scherzer, the imposter we saw the last two turns out?

  4. Which unlikely hero will hit the game changing home run tonight?

    Because you know it’s coming. Will it be Matt Beaty or Gavin Lux? How about Lars Nootbaar? What about Yadi Molina or Matt Carpenter for old time’s sake? The random soul crushing dinger is coming. Can you imagine if it comes off the bat of pinch hitter Albert Pujols in the 8th? It’s probably gonna be Nootbaar, huh.