The 2021 NL Wild Card Game is here, and we have a great matchup on our hands.
The 106-win Los Angeles Dodgers are set to host the 90-win St. Louis Cardinals.
The Dodgers are big-time favorites, but the Cardinals are arguably the hottest team in baseball.
You can’t count St. Louis out.
However, if the Cardinals want to escape L.A. with a win, they’re going to have to get contributions from a few key players.
3. Paul Goldschmidt
By all accounts, Paul Goldschmidt is one of the Cardinals’ best hitters.
He posted a 143 OPS+ in the regular season and blasted 31 homers.
But the 34-year-old is in for a tough test tonight.
Max Scherzer is going to be on the mound for the Dodgers, and Goldschmidt has always struggled against him.
In 32 career at-bats against Scherzer, Goldschmidt has a .156 batting average, .338 OPS, and 16 strikeouts.
— Roberth Pérez (@RoberthEperez17) October 6, 2021
Clearly, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is a nightmare opponent for the St. Louis slugger.
Will Goldschmidt find a way to get something going tonight?
We’ll have to wait and see.
2. Nolan Arenado
MLB fans rarely get to see Nolan Arenado in the postseason.
The 30-year-old has completed nine seasons at the MLB level, but he has appeared in just five playoff games.
That makes him a bit of a wild card heading into tonight’s matchup against L.A.
How will he perform on such a huge stage?
Only time will tell.
But one thing is for sure: St. Louis would love to see Arenado turn things up a notch compared to his regular season.
The six-time All-Star didn’t have a bad regular season by any means, but it wasn’t great by his standards.
He entered the 2021 campaign with a career batting average of .293 and OPS of .890.
Then, in the 2021 regular season, he batted .255 with an OPS of .807.
Again, certainly not bad, but not overly impressive compared to his past seasons.
He still blasted 34 home runs and 34 doubles in 2021, so it’s hard to complain.
But he reached base at a mere .312 clip, and that’s certainly something that you’d like to see change.
There’s no better time for him to flip a switch than tonight.
1. Adam Wainwright
To state the obvious, the Cardinals aren’t going to beat the Dodgers and Scherzer without a strong showing from Adam Wainwright.
Adam Wainwright (40) will be the oldest pitcher to start a Wild Card game, passing Adam Wainwright (39). #STLFLY
— Talkin’ Redbirds (@TalkinRedbirds) October 5, 2021
The 40-year-old is coming off of a great regular season in which he posted a 3.05 ERA, 3.66 FIP, and 1.06 WHIP.
Over his final 14 starts of the regular season, he managed a 2.28 ERA.
The Cardinals went 13-1 in that stretch.
Overall, St. Louis went 22-10 in Wainwright’s starts in the regular season.
The veteran almost always gives his team a shot to win, and that’s exactly what he needs to do tonight.
Fans shouldn’t be worried about the stage being too big for Wainwright to handle.
He has tons of playoff experience under his belt and is one of the best postseason performers in Cardinals history.
Over 28 career playoff outings, he has a 2.89 ERA, 2.75 FIP, and .655 opponent OPS.
All signs point to the three-time All-Star having a strong outing tonight.