National League Wild Card Preview

BY HAAKON MELAND, SPORTS STAFFER.

The hottest team in baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the reigning World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Baseball fans should feel spoiled with the two Wild Card matchups we have to kick off the MLB Postseason.

The Cardinals did what feels like their annual sneaky postseason push to get into the playoffs, highlighted by a 17-game win streak. They’ll be going with ole reliable on the bump for this game. The 40-year-old Adam Wainwright, who was just extended for another year recently, will be looking to add another World Series ring to his collection in this postseason run. Wainwright started 32 games for the Cardinals this season pitching to 3.05 ERA and a 17-7 record. A stellar season for the old man.

His counterpart in this matchup is future Hall of Famer, Max Scherzer. Scherzer has had a phenomenal season, pitching to a 2.46 ERA and has been lights out since being traded to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. As a Dodger, Scherzer went 7-0 in 11 starts and had an era of 1.98. The Dodgers fell short of a division title this season despite winning 106 games. The Giants were able to hold them off all season, shocking the entire league by winning 107 games. 

The trade that sent Max Scherzer to the Dodgers also included another All-Star in Trea Turner who won the batting title for the National League this year with a batting average of .328. Turner made the switch from shortstop to second base once he joined the Dodgers creating one of the best duos up the middle in Turner and Corey Seager. Injuries played a part in Seagers 2021 campaign but when healthy he is one of the best players in the game and is poised for a massive contract this offseason. Seager and Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner are known for their clutch postseason hitting and they will need to continue that if they are to make a long postseason run. Max Muncy, who was putting up MVP type numbers for most of the season, will not be available due to an elbow injury which is a big loss. The 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger has been a shell of himself this season offensively but looked to be heating up as the season winded down. The Dodgers should feel safe with any lead with Scherzer on the mound, but you cannot count out the hot bats of the Cardinals, so the Dodger bats will need to show up.  

The St. Louis Cardinals, the hottest team in baseball will look to continue their success into the Wild Card and then deep into the postseason. Everyone knows October baseball is about who’s hot. Tyler O’Neil has been the shining star of this team this season. The 26-year-old Canadian slugged 34 home runs this season, 13 of those homeruns in the month of September.  The Cardinals outfield, filled with young stars such as Tyler O’Neil, Harrison Bader, and Dylan Carlson all stepped up over the last two months of the season to get the Cardinals into the postseason. The Cardinals big off-season acquisition Nolan Arenado played to the back of his baseball card this season hitting 34 home runs and driving in 105 runs. Arenado, along with first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, do not have great career numbers against Scherzer which is concerning, a combined eight-for-47 with zero hits for extra bases. It is not going to be easy against Max Scherzer but for the Cardinals to have a chance, they’ll need the bats to stay hot.  

I believe this game all comes down to the starting pitching per usual. Both teams have stacked lineups filled with game changing power, but I am expecting a low scoring game and believe that whoever can get to the bullpen first is going to come out on top. Expect some late game drama in what could be a nine-inning marathon.  

Another storyline to watch for: Could Albert Pujols last game come against his former team? 

My prediction: Cardinals win 4-3 

Postseason Record: 0-1 

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