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N.L. Wild-Card Game Live Updates: Cardinals and Dodgers Face Off

Oct. 6, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ET

Oct. 6, 2021, 7:00 p.m. ET

Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated Press

‘Listen, it’s not rocket science. You’ve seen guys with this kind of role toward the end of their career. I know I’m not the player I once was. I think everybody knows that. But I think I can still contribute.’

Albert Pujols

LOS ANGELES — It was a packed house, a big moment and the baseball was rising toward the sky on a line straight toward October. Albert Pujols watched in a uniform he never expected to wear from a place he never imagined he would be. It was his teammate Corey Seager’s two-run blast that lit the roar that capped a Los Angeles evening last week. And there was Pujols, in the Dodgers’ dugout, leading the cheers.

Once, in the days he was known as The Machine, Pujols commanded his own stretch-run spotlight. Those big moments now mostly belong to others, while Pujols focuses on what is usually one nightly plate appearance, strategically placed, against a left-handed reliever.

The Dodgers signed Pujols in May, four days after his unceremonious release by the Los Angeles Angels and in the final season of a 10-year, $240 million contract. In his very specific role, he has flourished beyond expectations, scorching lefties for a .306 batting average and finishing the season with 12 homers and 38 R.B.I. for the Dodgers.

His teammates rave about his joie de vivre. And now a man who once dominated Octobers for St. Louis is back in the postseason for the first time since 2014 — and his first test will come Wednesday against his beloved Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. His frustrating end with the Angels is fading from the narrative.

Oct. 6, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

Oct. 6, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET

Credit…Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

With Max Muncy out of the lineup after dislocating his left elbow in Sunday’s season finale against Milwaukee, the Dodgers decided to start lefty Matt Beaty at first base, use Cody Bellinger’s defensive skills in center field and leave Albert Pujols as a pinch-hitting weapon off the bench in Wednesday night’s wild-card game against St. Louis.

“It starts with who’s on the mound,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said, referring to his own ace, Max Scherzer.

Roberts noted that Scherzer is a “high-strikeout guy” and St. Louis’s lineup included a “high volume of right-handed bats.” So, Roberts said, defense in center field and at first base was important and that he anticipated most of the ground balls Cardinals hitters put in play would be to the left side of the infield, where veteran mainstays Corey Seager (shortstop) and Justin Turner (third base) will be waiting.

Oct. 6, 2021, 5:56 p.m. ET

Oct. 6, 2021, 5:56 p.m. ET

Credit…Aaron Doster/Associated Press
Credit…Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

With their 106-win season on the line in a single-elimination game, the Dodgers will have Max Scherzer on the hill. He’s a 37-year-old with three Cy Young Awards, but in this pitching matchup, he qualifies as the young one. Opposite him will be Adam Wainwright, 40, who won his first World Series ring when Scherzer was still in college.

The blockbuster matchup would have been hard to foresee coming into the year, as Wainwright had dealt with injuries and decline in recent years, and Scherzer was firmly entrenched with the Washington Nationals. But both veterans proved to be absolutely dominant this season, making tonight’s game a must-watch even beyond the incredibly high stakes.

For Wainwright, a five-year stretch of injury and inconsistency finally lifted in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. His strong work in 10 starts last year carried over to this season, his best overall since 2014, with a 17-7 record, a 3.05 E.R.A. and 174 strikeouts.

For Scherzer, a July 30 trade offered a chance to go from an also-ran to a potential champion. After the trade, he found his best form, going 7-0 in 11 starts for Los Angeles with a 1.98 E.R.A. and 89 strikeouts in just 68⅓ innings. He even got his 3,000th career strikeout in style by flirting with a perfect game. The Dodgers won every game he started.

Wainwright beat the Dodgers in his only start against them in 2021, allowing four earned runs in eight and a third innings of a 5-4 win on Sept. 8. Scherzer faced the Cardinals twice, once with the Nationals and once with the Dodgers, and beat them both times, allowing no earned runs in 14 innings of work.

Oct. 6, 2021, 5:55 p.m. ET

Oct. 6, 2021, 5:55 p.m. ET

Credit…Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

One came into the season as the defending champion and the betting favorite to repeat. The other wasn’t a lock for the playoffs until the final weeks of the season. But two storied National League franchises, which have combined for an eye-popping 18 World Series titles, will face off in a wild-card game that will propel one of them to a league division series and will send the other home licking its wounds and wondering what might have been.

  • Who: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

  • What: The National League wild-card game

  • When: 8:10 p.m. Eastern

  • Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

  • Why: A spot in a league division series against the 107-win San Francisco Giants

  • TV: TBS

  • Streaming: Various services like Sling, Hulu Live and FuboTV will carry the TBS feed, which is also available via TBS.com and the TBS app.