The Los Angeles Dodgers have had a relatively shaky season in 2018 (if you’re looking for an actual analysis of the 2018 Dodgers, I did it a few weeks ago), but they are generally a very successful franchise. They haven’t won a World Series in thirty years but they have, with only sporadic intermissions, been a consistently viable team. Also, the St. Louis Cardinals beat them in the postseason a lot and enjoy that.
The Cardinals and Dodgers have faced each other in the playoffs in five different seasons, and four times, the Cardinals emerged victorious in the series. The one time the Dodgers won, in 2009, it was such a noncompetitive series that is basically only remembered for Matt Holliday getting hit in the groin with a baseball. “The other four postseason series had heart, but baseball in the groin had a baseball in the groin.”
In the interest of fairness:
But let’s re-live the moments in which the Cardinals most destroyed hope for the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is a top five list of the greatest moments by what I am labeling Pennant Probability Added for the Cardinals. I wrote a similar article at Viva El Birdos last year about the greatest Cardinals moments by Championship Probability Added, which you can check out here (but don’t do it yet if you want to avoid spoilers for this list). But here are the greatest Cardinals dominating the Dodgers moments.
5. Bill Madlock grounds into a double play–10.5%: The greatest Cardinals play against the Dodgers that involved the Cardinals on defense came in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS. With the game tied in the bottom of the seventh inning, runners on the corners, and one out, Dodgers third baseman Bill Madlock grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. The Cardinals’ odds of winning the game went from 29% to 50%, though the Pennant Probability Added was only half of the game’s Win Probability Added, as the Cardinals still had a 50% chance of winning the series had they lost that game.
4. Matt Adams goes yard, bat flips into another dimension–10.75%: A moment in Game 4 of a National League Division Series can only have so much impact–because there’s another game and another round looming, a moment is only worth 25% of what it would be worth in Game 7 of the NLCS, the highest-leverage game in which the Cardinals and Dodgers could meet. But Matt Adams had his moment in 2014, when with the Cardinals trailing by two runs and with two runners on, and Clayton Kershaw inexplicably languishing on the mound, Matt Adams took the Cardinals’ odds of winning the game from 37% to 80%.
3. Ozzie Smith’s triple–15.5%: It’s not the most famous moment from the game, nor the most famous Ozzie Smith moment from the series, but The Wizard’s Game 6 triple in the top of the seventh inning in the 1985 NLCS (the inning that Bill Madlock ended with the aforementioned double play) tied the game for the Cardinals, scoring Willie McGee, and bumping the game’s WPA from 29% to 61%.
2. Ozzie Smith makes Busch Stadium go crazy–21.5%: The arguable flaw in WPA here is that it doesn’t adjust for the sheer absurdity of the decidedly non-powerful shortstop hitting a walk-off home run against Dodgers righty Tom Niedenfuer. But even so, Smith’s Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS dinger gave the Cardinals a 3-2 series lead and, unsurprisingly, saw a dramatic uptick in game WPA, from 57% to, well, all the way up to 100%, as Jack Buck paid stirring tribute to Prince’s barely-a-year-old smash single “Let’s Go Crazy” with his home run call (for some reason, some of the call is cut off here, but the money line is still there).
1. Jack Clark silences Dodger Stadium–36.5%: It doesn’t have the iconic call of Ozzie’s home run, and I suspect the lack of crowd hubbub devalues it somewhat in the hearts of Cardinals fans, but Jack the Ripper’s de facto pennant-clinching come-from-behind home run (and future Cardinal Pedro Guerrero throwing his glove to the ground in left field in digust) belongs in any discussion of the greatest moments in St. Louis Cardinals history. To seal a pennant in Game 6 of a LCS series with a home run that takes the win probability from 19% to 93% is simply fantastic.
Here are the projected starters for the upcoming four-game set. Start times listed in Central time.
Thursday (6:15 pm)–Clayton Kershaw (7-5, 2.42 ERA) vs. Austin Gomber (5-0, 2.93 ERA)
Friday (7:00 pm)–Walker Buehler (6-5, 3.09 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty (8-6, 2.92 ERA)
Saturday (12:05 pm)–Rich Hill (8-5, 3.88 ERA) vs. John Gant (7-5, 3.16 ERA)
Sunday (7:00 pm)–Hyun-Jin Ryu (4-3, 2.42 ERA) vs. Adam Wainwright (1-3, 4.70 ERA)