The Los Angeles Dodgers won their final seven games of the regular season, but still came up one game short in their effort to chase down the San Francisco Giants for the NL West lead. That means the defending World Series champions will instead host the NL Wild-Card game, needing to beat the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday in order to keep their World Series hopes alive.
The Dodgers set a new record by winning 106 games, the most of any team not to win a divisional title in MLB history.
Dodgers set unwanted record in NL West chase
That Los Angeles set the record in the current era is an incredible feat. With five-team divisions, the likelihood of two teams putting up such gaudy records in the same division is lower than ever. But the current playoff format provides the Dodgers with a second chance, albeit in a one-game wild-card matchup where anything can happen.
The Dodgers enter the wild-card game as a significant favorite, at least in MLB terms. Los Angeles rates as a -225 pick to win at FanDuel Sportsbook, with the Cardinals coming in as the +188 underdog.
Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Dodgers, and he accounts for much of that advantage. Scherzer went 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA in 2021. He put up even better numbers after moving from the Washington Nationals to LA in late July. Since then, he’s gone 7-0 with a 1.98 ERA.
Scherzer has cooled down lately, giving up 10 earned runs in 10.1 innings over his past two starts. But the Dodgers say there’s nobody they’d rather have starting the wild-card game.
“We feel very good with Max taking the mound,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters. “I talk about betting on guys – he’s an easy guy [to bet on].”
On Sept. 7, the Cardinals held a 69-68 record and found themselves on the fringes of the NL wild-card race. But St. Louis finished the season on a 21-4 tear, including a 17-game winning streak that propelled them into the playoffs. When the season ended, the Cardinals easily won the second wild card by seven games over the Cincinnati Reds, even after losing their final two games.
Wainwright earns wild-card start
The Cardinals will start the 40-year-old Adam Wainwright in the wild-card game. Wainwright is enjoying a late-career resurgence, going 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA for the Cardinals this year. That meant that Cardinals manager Mike Shildt had an easy decision when it came to picking a starter for the one-game playoff.
“That’s such a cool thing for me, because three years ago, I was on the mound, basically dead,” Wainwright told reporters. “Three years later, to have it kind of be a no-brainer that I was pitching the most important game of the season … that means a lot to me.”
Despite being in the wild-card game, the Dodgers remain the +390 favorite to win the World Series, according to FanDuel. Those odds should tighten significantly if they survive the wild-card game, as the randomness of a one-game elimination scenario will no longer be a factor in their quest for back-to-back titles.