The Los Angeles Dodgers are set to host the St. Louis Cardinals in a one-game playoff today (Wednesday, October 6th @ 8:10 PM ET), where it is possible that the 106-win defending World Series champions don’t even make it into the divisional round of the postseason. Read on for this MLB game preview, betting predictions and picks.
LA Dodgers: Good But Not Good Enough to Win the NL West
Had this been nearly any other year, the Dodgers’ 106 wins would have easily won the NL West. But 2021 was not any other year.
Baseball was treated to an absolute show this season between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The two top dogs in the NL West were neck-and-neck with each other almost the entire 162-game slate. It was extraordinary to watch especially because preseason rankings did not at all predict it. Many had the Dodgers as the unquestioned best team in baseball with the idea that the San Diego Padres would be their closest competitors in the NL West. The Giants weren’t even in the conversation. To get a sense of what people thought of San Francisco, here’s an excerpt from a preseason ranking put together by ESPN, which ranked the Giants as the 23rd best team in baseball entering the season: “There are enough viable veterans on hand that given good health, San Francisco could push toward 80 wins.”
Try 27 wins more than that to lead all of baseball. And to think that was ESPN’s best-case scenario for the team. The worst-case was finishing behind the Colorado Rockies with close to 100 losses. Needless to say, the Giants completely proved all preseason predictions wrong. But enough about them. This is about the team that tried to chase them down but couldn’t. The Dodgers are much the same unit that won last year’s World Series and betting odds have them favored to do so again. They won 106 games for crying out loud. The last time two teams in the same division accomplished that feat was in 2018 with the Yankees and Red Sox. And it was the 108-win Red Sox that won the World Series that year.
St. Louis Cardinals: Scorching Hot at the Right Time
The Dodgers are very much top contenders for another trophy but on Wednesday night, they might learn the hard way why it is so important to win your division. Especially in an age where the wildcard winners have to get through a one-game, do-or-die playoff first. The reality is, baseball could lose one of its best teams before the divisional rounds even begin, and if that’s not a reason to re-evaluate this format, I don’t know what is. Now, had this been August, there would be one doubting the Dodgers ability to easily win their wildcard game. But a lot can – and did – change in a few months. After splitting a four-game series with LA, the Cardinals went on to win 19 of their last 23 games including a stretch of 17 in a row, which is one of the MLB’s longest winning streaks in the last 60 years. The Cardinals secured their wildcard berth in the process, beating out other late contenders in the Padres, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Mets, as well as taking six of seven from the NL Central-winning Milwaukee Brewers.
The Cardinals are baseball’s hottest team and they are downright scorching. The Dodgers have to at least be a little worried given they have just one game separating them from continuing their journey to win back-to-back titles and simply going home. Because in a one-game playoff, anything can – and often does – happen.
The Matchup: (STL) Adam Wainwright vs (LAD) Max Scherzer
The Cardinals and Dodgers both have just one game to make their mark, but both teams are absolutely in a position to do so, especially given who they will be sending to the respective mounds. On paper, there may not be a better playoff pitching matchup this entire postseason than the one scheduled to take place between former World Series winners, Max Scherzer and Adam Wainwright.
In a year where baseball was dominated by the next generation of stars, both on the mound and at the plate, there was also magic in seeing veterans continue to do what they’ve done for decades. Of the two pitchers taking the mound Wednesday night, Scherzer is the baby, just 37 years old compared to Wainwright’s 40. But both men truly turned back the clock this season. Scherzer, across starts with both the Dodgers and Washington Nationals, was 15-4 with a 2.46 ERA. Despite playing for two different teams, he is a bonafide NL Cy Young candidate, which would make him the first player to win after changing teams midseason. After struggling from 2016-19, Wainwright built off the success he had in limited opportunities last year, by going 17-7 with a 3.05 ERA for his best season since 2014. His 17 wins were the second-best in baseball, behind Dodgers’ Julio Urias. In fact, the Dodgers have three pitchers who finished top five in wins with Scherzer actually having the lowest at 15. LA certainly has a rotation to go deep in the playoffs but none of that matters when you have one game and have to pick one guy to save your season.
October baseball is upon us and these two wildcard matchups exemplify why this time of year is so critical. The Cardinals got hot at the right time and the Dodgers just fell short of winning the division and saving themselves the nail-biter of a one-game playoff. But here we are, where LA is facing down the prospect of winning 106 regular-season games and potentially going home before the divisional round. Baseball is a crazy, complex game.
Betting odds have the Dodgers -1.5 on the runline with a total of 7.5 set for the anticipated pitcher’s duel. For the betting predictions and picks for this preview, we’re going to advise bucking that trend though and riding the hot hand. Take the Cardinals +1.5 and the under on the 7.5 run total.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.