For Dodgers and Cardinals, MLB wildcard spot is on the line

LOS ANGELES, CA-The Los Angeles Dodgers are not the only team hungry for a postseason spot. The Dodgers encountered a team Monday night playing like they want in on a possible wildcard playoff berth.  The National League playoff scenario is getting tighter and tighter as teams enter the home stretch of the 2018 MLB regular season.

If the playoffs were to start today, both the Dodgers and the St. Louis Cardinals would be out of the mix. Right now, Milwaukee and Colorado have the advantage of being the top two wildcard spots if the regular season ended right now. It’s a good thing for the Dodgers that there is still have about a month to go before that is finally determined.

Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner slides into home for a run against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. The Cardinals defeated the Dodgers, 5-3. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

As it stands right now, the Dodgers are looking up to the Cardinals in that regard, seated in the fifth spot behind fourth-place St. Louis. The Dodgers lost an opportunity to gain ground on the Cardinals with a 5-3 setback at Dodger Stadium, dropping them two games out from the midwest visitors.

It was a typical Dodgers-Cardinals contest. Solid pitching at times; great hitting during others. New nothing new, just some good old baseball drama playing itself out. In the first of a three-game series at home, the Dodgers had their chances to pull off a win, but couldn’t get it done.

Manny Machado gets on his bicycle to head towards first base after driving in a run in the Dodgers’ 5-3 defeat to the Cardinals on Monday, Aug. 20, 2018. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

More importantly, Kenley Jansen couldn’t save the day for the Dodgers. Fresh coming off a 10-day stint on the disabled list, Jansen, the Dodgers top-notch closer, served up two whiffle balls that turned out to be home runs in the ninth inning, putting L.A. into an immediate hole in the series. Up to that point, the Dodgers looked like they were the team riding the wave of momentum in the late innings.

Actually, you might say it was poetic justice for the Cardinals, which started off the game with a home run from Jose Matinez in the top of the first inning to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead. The Cardinals added two more runs in the top half of the fifth inning to make the score 3-0. It could have been worse for the Dodgers. The Cardinals had just piled on those two runs and were looking for more.

The St. Louis Cardinals have an edge on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the battle for the National League’s two wildcard playoff spots. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman for News4usonline

After running Dodgers starter Alex Wood off the mound (four innings, seven hits), the Cardinals had the bases loaded with no outs in their half of the fifth inning. Reliever Pedro Baez came in and shut things down for the Dodgers, recording three strikeouts and not allowing the Cardinals anything for the two innings he pitched.

Kenta Maeda was as efficient in his two innings of relief work, striking out four batters in the process. The work by Baez and Maeda stabilized the Cardinals’ bats and allowed the Dodgers an opportunity to get their own offensive machinery going. The Dodgers scored two runs in the fifth and added another run in the seventh inning to knot the score at 3-3.

But as they have done lately, the Dodgers left plenty of opportunities for run production out on the field. Perhaps more than anything else, including Jansen serving up back-to-back solo home runs to Jedd Gyorko and Matt Carpenter, this is what cost the Dodgers the ballgame. The Dodgers left 14 men on base for the game. Despite the defeat, the Dodgers have a chance to fight back against the Cardinals for one of the two National League’s wildcard playoff spots.

An even better scenario would see the Dodgers make an incredible run to snatch the NL West crown and become an automatic qualifier in the postseason. But they’ll have to clip the feathers of the Cardinals in order to do that.

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