How the Dodgers advanced to the Division Series: A walk-off classic

It took until their final turn at the plate, but the Los Angeles Dodgers survived a do-or-die wild-card game Wednesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals, walking away with a thrilling 3-1 win on a night when neither offense could find much purchase.

The game was billed as ace versus ace, but Max Scherzer of the Dodgers was done after 4 1/3 innings and Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals was pulled after 5 1/3. Both teams’ bullpens stepped up, but the depth of the Los Angeles offense, which helped power the team to 106 wins, came through in the end when Chris Taylor hit a walk-off two-run homer to left center in the ninth inning, overcoming recent struggles to push his team to the next round of the playoffs.

“Think small and big things happen,” Taylor said when asked about his attitude toward big situations in an on-field interview after the game. “That felt good.”

Taylor’s big hit came after both teams had struggled to do much of anything offensively. The Cardinals got three hits from second baseman Tommy Edman, but the rest of the team went 2 for 27 with nine strikeouts. The Dodgers were not much better, collecting five singles to go with home runs by Justin Turner and Taylor.

The Dodgers ended up using five relievers after Scherzer’s early exit. Each did his job, but Kenley Jansen, the team’s closer, shined the brightest, slamming the door in the top of the ninth by striking out sluggers Paul Goldschmidt and Tyler O’Neill for the final two outs.

With the win, the Dodgers advanced to a division series against their biggest rival, the San Francisco Giants, who won 107 games this season, ending a streak of eight consecutive division titles for Los Angeles.

“We’ve been battling all year,” Taylor said. “I expect a hard-fought series.”

The Cardinals, who were the National League’s second wild-card team with 90 wins — 16 fewer than the Dodgers — qualified for the postseason thanks to a late surge in which they won 17 straight games. But given one chance to survive in the postseason, they came up just short.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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