LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers advanced to the National League Division Series (NLDS) thanks to consistent hitting from Mookie Betts, who went 2-4 at the plate on Wednesday night, as Chris Taylor connected on a 2-run home run for the win over the St Louis Cardinals.
As unsettling as an elimination play-in game could be, the leadership of Betts along with several others in the clubhouse provided an energy that comes with previous playoff experience as they prepared for this moment.
“These games are — you get nervous and butterflies and all those type of things, but I think that’s what makes it fun. I think everybody kind of feels that,” Betts explained.
“I don’t want to speak for everybody, but it just kind of seems like the butterflies and whatnot are going, and I think that just means that we love it.”
The late Nipsey Hussle once rapped, “I owe myself, I told myself back then that I would do this.”
The swagger of a winner, the mentality of the mamba and the wind behind his back, and overcoming many obstacles this season. No one would deny Betts and the Dodgers their moment to shine and show out.
The Dodgers right fielder prepared to enter his 40th career postseason game healthy, however throughout the season there were peaks and valleys due to injuries for him.
Betts missed a sizable portion of the season with a hip injury he suffered in July, along with missing more time in August as he was eventually placed on the 10-day DL.
With him being in a significant amount of pain, the team wondered if he would be able to return this season, as surgery was also an option that was explored at one point.
When September arrived Betts returned from injury and contributed every game of the regular season. He’s been remarkable since his return, yet his impact was felt in the clubhouse even when he wasn’t on the field.
“You look back a couple months — I can’t believe we’re here with him (Betts) playing every day,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
This Dodgers team is a very close knit unit, with everything that they’ve gone through this season. Injuries, the Trevor Bauer drama. Betts blocked the noise with a sharp focus, determined to be the great player we have seen in times past.
“Even once I was somewhat healthy, I still didn’t play that well. I’m not blaming anything on any injuries or anything. It’s just purely me just not playing well,” Betts said before the Wildcard game at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
”But you know, we’ve got the guys, they all just picked up my slack, and that’s why we are where we are. Obviously the Giants played really well. Got to tip your cap. They won 107 games. We’ve played really well and kind of picked up for each other, and that’s just the name of the game.”
Many will focus on the incredible and vibrant walk off homer by Taylor, but make no mistake Betts’ contributions early in the game paved the way for the Dodgers make plays in order to be victorious.
The team moves on the face the Giants in San Francisco, a match up we all desire to witness.
Betts has been successful this season against their rivals from the north at plate and in the outfield.
His defense will be on display and needed for every game. Expect this defensive technician to come through like an Amazon delivery.
Wednesday night is for all the marbles as the St. Louis Cardinals will travel to LA LA Land to face the defending World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers in a one-game National League Wild Card matchup.
With line-ups already set for this star-studded marquee, where does the Cardinals’ vigorous five-quadrant pitcher Jack Flaherty fit in after returning from a right shoulder strain?
Manager Mike Shildt indicated that Flaherty would be on the NL Wild Card roster.
He told MLB.com that the right-hander would benefit from the one-game scenario due to the limitations of his current workload due to a plethora of injuries which consisted of a left oblique tear earlier this season and the strained shoulder mentioned above.
Before making his initial return, fans and pundits around the situation wanted Flaherty to sit out for the remainder of the year. But hope crept in after seeing a glimpse of the ace warming up in the bullpen in the bottom of the 10th inning vs. the Chicago Cubs last week.
The uproar was a prelude as the 25-year-old was the sigh of relief in the sixth inning on the season’s final game as he showed he could pitch in back-to-back days. Flaherty threw 18 pitches during the outing in which 12 were strikes with two punchouts in one inning of service.
Shildt told the press that the Cardinals are reminiscent of a tightrope walker as they are currently a balancing act.
He said, “We are going to give him the opportunity to go out and compete, but we also recognize that we are about to head into the postseason, and it is time to put the guys out there that can help us the most and Jack is clearly a guy that can help us, but we’ve got to make sure we are carrying a group that does not have limitations in that setting.”
All reports indicate that Flaherty, if called upon, would be the first one ready to rock out of the bullpen during Wednesday’s win-or-go-home scenario in his first taste of playoff pressure.
The mere mind twist of having an actual ace up their sleeve equipped with an array of weaponry in his repertoire would strike fear in any opponent.
Black Jack has an upper 90s fastball and many off-speed knee bucklers, amongst other dominating features, to impose his will.
Speaking of going home, the matchup with the Dodgers will be a homecoming for the California native.
Imagine it’s a close ball game, and the starter is struggling to make it to the finish line.
Sealed away is Flaherty, who embraces the Mamba mentality and puts on a performance masterpiece worthy of Flaherty’s childhood idol, the late great Kobe Bean Bryant, with the game on the line. In a perfect world with family & friends surveying the situation, he dominates. He will surely have to get past MLBbro Mookie Betts in a tight situation or two.
That would be the stuff of legend. Or at least something to talk about over Thanksgiving dinner.
Jack Flaherty, back home in LA, is rocking purple and gold Kobe Bryant-inspired cleats with "RIP Mamba" written on the side pic.twitter.com/C048TwCdme
Major League Baseball recently updated their top 100 prospects over the weekend, which featured three bros in the top 30 like Cincinnati Reds pitcher Hunter Greene and shortstops Kahlil Watson of the Miami Marlins and C.J. Abrahams of the San Diego Padres. But there is a riser upon the horizon.
While those bros are becoming household names, future superstar Jordan Alexander Walker from the St. Louis Cardinals is making a name for himself. Walkers’ acclivity through the ranks is the stuff made of legend. But this is what the Redbirds expected when they selected the third baseman, 21st overall, in last year’s MLB Draft.
The 2020 MLB Virtual Draft was a watershed Draft for the revival of Baseball’s chocolate talent pipeline.
The selections of Ed Howard by the Cubs and Jordan Walker by the Cardinals mark the first time ever that two alumni of the MLB Breakthrough Series – a diversity-focused, amateur development experience by MLB & USA Baseball – have been selected in the first round of the MLB Draft.
We are the ones late to the party.
Jordan Walker homered on the first pitch of his pro career 👀
The buzz is beyond apropos as the 63rd- ranked prospect is batting .324 with 80 hits, 47 runs, 33 RBI, 22 doubles, nine home runs with eight stolen bases, and two triples for the Peoria Chiefs; Not to mention his glovework on the hot corner!
What can't Cardinals 2020 1st round pick Jordan Walker do?
Walker told KSDK News about his infield play, “I’m really working on my defense right now. I feel my defense is really behind on my hitting right now. Working with (Jose Oquendo) has been mind-blowing. He showed me plenty of other ways to be more consistent.”
He went on to say, “I trust him with any part of the game. It’s not just fielding, but he has given me tips on base running, hitting, but mainly fielding. He showed me different situations I should be thinking about, where I should be on the cut-off if it’s hit in left field, knowing the outfielder’s arm (strength), and things like that. Just the whole aspect of the game.”
Check out the size of this young man. He is not human.
The 6’5 240lb 19-year-old is strong as an ox with cat-like reflexes. The way the ball pops off of his bat leaves defenders shaking in their cleats.
The diamond has become a safe haven for 2019-2020 Georgia Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year, where he hit .457 with four home runs in just 16 games. He had an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.555 before the Global pandemic shut down the rest of his senior season.
Those numbers had top-notch academia like Duke salivating over his presence before he ultimately took his talents to the show, where he signed a $2.9 million deal.
Walker (now 19), came in hot at age 18, while at the alternate site for the Cardinals.
His play outgrew his stay as he quickly got promoted to Palm Beach, where he later worked his way up to High-A Peoria, where he currently stands today.
@jwalker0522 First long ⚾️ in front of the home fans at Dozer Park ties the game at 2.
St. Louis Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty took the mound in search of his 10th win and had a solid outing on Wednesday. Black Jack pitched 6 innings, yielded two runs and K’d 8 in a hard luck no-decision against the NL Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers.
There has to be a voice somewhere in the back of Jack Flaherty’s mind asking about what could have been, both for him and the St. Louis Cardinals.
After going 74 days between starts, Flaherty looked like he hadn’t been away at all, going six strong innings and striking out five, walking none, and allowing only two hits and no runs, as the Cards won their fourth game in a row.
The victory pushed St. Louis to three games over .500 for the first time since June 5.
“I just didn’t try to do too much tonight,” Flaherty said. “Once I got that first strike in there everything felt normal. I missed competing with these guys and being a part of the team was what I missed the most.”
“Jack was in control and he hit right where we wanted with his pitch count,” said Cardinals manager Mike Shildt. “It was a perfect outing and we’re glad he’s back.”
When he walked off the mound after throwing for five innings on May 31, Flaherty was 8-1 with a 2.90 ERA, and the Cardinals were 30-24, good enough to be sitting in first place in the National League Central.
Flaherty was leading the NL in wins, and hadn’t allowed more than three earned runs since Opening Day.
Between April 7 and May 19, he won eight consecutive starts. Outside of maybe Jacob deGrom, no one was handling hitters as effectively as Flaherty.
St. Louis seemed like a lock for the postseason, and the Black Ace was an early frontrunner for the Cy Young Award.
Then came the left oblique strain that took the Ace right out of the deck.
By the time he was activated from the 60-day injured list on Friday,
Flaherty was returning to a team now 10.5 games back in its division and tied with the New York Mets for sixth place in the Wild Card chase.
It won’t be easy for the Cards to make a playoff push, though they face divisional foes Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, in 16 of their next 20 games. That’s an opportunity to quickly make up some ground in the Central and pull closer to the postseason pack.
Flaherty can help lead the charge, but he’s going to be smart during his return. He’s not the savior, but hopefully his return signals the start of a turnaround in St. Louis.
“I’m not looking to say that me making one start is going to sparkplug this team,” said Flaherty. It’s going to take a whole group and a whole collective effort.
“I’m just looking to go out and compete every five days and try to win as many ball games as I can.”
If the end of his season looks like the start, he can still rack up some W’s, give fans a reason to come to the ballpark and set the tone for 2022.