The Dodgers’ faint wild-card hopes stayed alive for at least a couple more hours Tuesday night after the St. Louis Cardinals lost 3-1 to the Cincinnati Reds. The Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the wild-card berth is 1.
The Reds broke open a 1-1 game with two runs in the sixth inning. With runners on second and third base and none out, Jay Bruce hit an RBI single off Chris Carpenter (0-2). Former Dodger catcher Dioner Navarro added an insurance run on an RBI single off Carpenter to give the Reds a 3-1 lead.
The game began at 5:15 p.m., early enough for the left-field video board to show the first four innings. By the time Chris Capuano threw his first pitch for the Dodgers, the game was tied 1-1 on a solo home run by the Reds’ Scott Rolen and a sacrifice fly by the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday.
The Dodgers still must beat the San Francisco Giants tonight and tomorrow, and the Reds must beat the Cardinals again tomorrow, for the Dodgers and Cardinals to meet in a one-game playoff Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
This one shouldn’t be too hard to understand. The St. Louis Cardinals’ magic number to clinch the National League wild-card berth is one.
Lose, and the Dodgers are eliminated from the playoffs.
If the Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds one of the next two days, the Dodgers are eliminated from the playoffs.
If somehow the Cardinals go 0-2, and the Dodgers 2-0, there will be a Game 163 at Dodger Stadium on Thursday for the right to visit Atlanta in the wild-card game.
Expect every player to be watching the scoreboard tomorrow. “We all know what the situation is,” Aaron Harang said Monday.
The Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals both won Sunday. The wild-card scenarios are fairly straightforward for the two teams entering their final series of the season (the Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals visit the Cincinnati Reds).
There are 16 possible outcomes, and the Cardinals make the playoffs in 13 of them. In two, the two teams finish the regular season with identical records and the Dodgers will host Game 163 next Thursday, with the winner traveling to Atlanta for the wild-card game. Only if the Dodgers and Reds both sweep can the Dodgers clinch a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season.
The bottom line: The Dodgers must win at least two of their final three games to even have a chance, and the Cardinals cannot win more than one of three.
The earliest the Dodgers can be eliminated is Tuesday, and they cannot clinch before Wednesday.
The Dodgers know a thing or two about heartbreaking losses in must-win situations that turn on a single play. So you can imagine how the St. Louis Cardinals reacted to last night’s 4-3, walkoff win by the Dodgers that left the two teams tied at 76-60 for the final wild-card berth.
One play in particular left a bad taste, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Several players questioned umpire Doug Eddings’ safe call at second base when Gordon stole his way into scoring position after replacing Andre Ethier at first base.
“He missed the call. I know he missed it,” said catcher Yadier Molina, who also thought he stopped Shane Victorino’s first-inning steal attempt before Victorino scored the Dodgers’ first run. “I know those guys (umpires) have a tough job to do. But those calls cost us the game. Gordon was out. The ball was there. The tag was there.”
Another player who saw the replay asserted the same thing as he left the clubhouse. Regardless, the Cardinals were left reeling from a piece of inspiration turned bad.
The loss left manager Mike Matheny draped over the dugout rail for a long minute as his players cleared. The clubhouse remained closed for 15 minutes afterward with manager still inconsolable when the doors opened.
Eddings is the first-base umpire today.