I think the only word that we can use to describe how everything panned out in the 2021 MLB season is… wow! Teams nobody expected to make it even close to the playoffs in the beginning of the season ended up shocking the world and turning everyone’s predictions upside down.
The division winners ended up being the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers and the surprise San Francisco Giants representing the National League (NL). The American League (AL) is represented by the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox, and a Houston Astros team attempting to put together a clean slate after last year’s sign-stealing scandal.
The Wildcard Rounds were also eyebrow raising. Both the Los Angeles Dodgers (who won 105 games this year) and St. Louis Cardinals settled for the wildcard in the NL, while the battle for the AL Wild Card spots were dangerously close. With the Seattle Mariners and the Toronto Blue Jays looking in, the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were a loss away from both teams having to play a rare 163rd game to determine the final wildcard standings.
On Oct. 5th, the most intense rivalry in all of sports was to take place in Boston in a one game Wild Card elimination to see who would advance. Having a 10-9 record against the Yankees in the regular season, Boston got home field advantage. The Red Sox have won six out of the 10 games played in Fenway Park against the Yankees this year, so getting home field advantage was significant.
The starting pitchers were set as the aces were ready to do battle: Gerrit Cole versus Nathan Eovaldi. Cole is coming off one of the best years of his career and may possibly win the Cy Young Award this year. With high expectations, Cole ended up lasting only two innings and allowing three earned runs with all three runs coming via home runs; a two-run homer in the first by Xander Bogaerts and a mammoth 435 foot moonshot by Kyle Schwarber in the third. Cole was eventually pulled from the game after this. The Yankees were only able to put two runs on the board with a pair of Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton homers, giving the Red Sox a wide open road to the divisional series.
On the other side of the standings in the National League, we had the aforementioned reigning World Series champions, the Dodgers, surprisingly only making the Wild Card but having to take on the Cardinals who have been one of the hottest teams in baseball. The Cardinals, who were close to not making the playoffs, heated up at the right time. From Sep. 11th to Sep. 28th, the team didn’t lose a game! That 17 game winning streak helped them finish the season with 90 wins, eliminating teams like the Mets, San Diego Padres and the Philadelphia Phillies from contention. This Wild Card game was played on Oct. 6th in Los Angeles. Both teams also had their aces on the mound, putting up Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals against Max Scherzer of the Dodgers.
Scherzer, a serious candidate for the Cy Young Award in the NL, started the game and immediately allowed a run in the first inning off of a wild pitch. This 1-0 score lasted until the fourth inning, where Justin Turner gave Scherzer some run support, tying up the ball game with a home run. Both teams had stellar pitching, as it was tied until the final inning. Alex Reyes came in to pitch in the bottom of the ninth for the Cardinals, and already had Cody Bellinger on base. With Chris Taylor up to bat, Reyes threw a slider in the heart of the plate, leaving Taylor no option but to give the Dodgers the win with a two-run walk-off home run. The Dodgers will head to the Divisional Series where they’ll face their division rivals and the team with the best record in the MLB this year, the Giants.
In the Divisional Series we will also see the White Sox take on the Astros and the Brewers go head to head with the Braves. So much baseball is left to play and so much history is yet to be made but one thing is for sure, whatever happens will be remembered for the foreseeable future.
*Editor’s Note: As this article was put through the publishing process, the Astros won 3-1 and are tied 1-1 against the Red Sox who beat the Rays. The Braves are up 2-0 against the Dodgers who beat the Giants.