Wednesday’s National League wild card game will have two old foes going against each other. Since 1892, the Dodgers have won 1,036 while the Cardinals have won 1,033 regular season games against each other. Even this season, the Dodgers won four of seven games to continue this equally matched rivalry.
However, the Dodgers have not fared as well against the Cardinals in the postseason. In five prior postseason series matchups, the Cardinals have won four with the Dodgers winning only the 2009 NLDS.
We begin a look back at the Cardinals successful past against the Dodgers with their first series in 1985.
1985 National League Championship Series
Cardinals win 4-2
In 2006, Cardinals fans voted Ozzie Smith’s Game 5 walk-off home run as the greatest moment in Busch Stadium history.
The switch-hitting Smith hit five home runs in 7,182 plate appearances against right-handed pitchers in his Hall-of-Fame career. He began his career in 1978 and he did not hit a regular season home run while batting left-handed until 1988.
Smith’s walk-off home run against Tom Niedenfuer surprised everyone including legendary broadcaster Jack Buck: “Smith corks one into right, down the line! It may go!! … Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! It’s a home run, and the Cardinals have won the game, by the score of 3 to 2, on a home run by the Wizard! Go crazy!”
The Dodgers returned home and were able to take a one-run lead to the top of the ninth in Game 6. Niedenfuer had relieved Orel Hershiser in the seventh inning and was trying to get through one more inning to take this series to seven games.
With two outs and two on, Neidenfuer faced Jack Clark. He had already struck out Clark in the seventh, so Tommy Lasorda had no intention walking him. The rest is history, as Clark hit a three-run homer and the Cardinals won the series.
Years later, Neidenfuer told the Los Angeles Times that he doesn’t dwell on that series. “It’s just the way it is,” the former reliever said. “Jack hit a lot of home runs. He got paid to hit; I got paid to pitch. Great moments in baseball usually are made by two people, not one.”
2004 National League Divisional Series
Cardinals win 3-1
The Dodgers did have one memorable game pitched by Jose Lima.
The Dodgers signed Lima just prior to spring training, and he started and relieved that season, finishing with a 13-5 record and a 4.07 ERA.
The Dodgers had not played a postseason game since 1996 and had not won a postseason game since Game 5 of the 1988 World Series. The Cardinals led the Majors with 105 wins and had a potent lineup led by Albert Pujols, Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen.
St. Louis won the first two games with the same 8-3 score, and it didn’t look like the Dodgers had much of a chance with Lima making the Game 3 start. Instead, the Dodgers got one of the best games Lima ever pitched. He pitched a five-hit shutout with one walk and four strikeouts.
Following that game, Jon Weisman would write in Dodger Thoughts that this was one of the best pitching performances he had seen in person (through 2004):
Facing the three All-Stars, Pujols, Rolen and Jim Edmonds, Lima retired them in order on 10 pitches - 10 pitches! - Beltre flairing a basket catch of a popup to end it.
Lima kneeled down and genuflected. As did we all.
2009 National League Divisional Series
Dodgers win 3-0
The Dodgers won Game 1 and were looking to take a 2-0 series lead. Clayton Kershaw was making his first postseason start and the Cardinals had Adam Wainwright going for them. Kershaw pitched well but left trailing 2-1, and with Wainwright pitching so well, it looked like the series was going to St. Louis tied.
Trever Miller retired Andre Ethier for the first out in the ninth and Ryan Franklin came in to get Manny Ramirez to fly out. In stepped first baseman James Loney, and this happened:
I was there and you could hear the sound of disappointment changing to cheers in an instant and from that point, the crowd was engaged.
After Juan Pierre replaced Loney on the bases, Casey Blake battled Franklin for a walk. And while that plate appearance seemed to take an hour, Rafael Belliard hit his first pitch for a single to tie the game.
A passed ball led to Russell Martin being intentionally walked. Mark Loretta was called upon to pinch-hit for pitcher George Sherill and he delivered.
The Dodgers would go on to win Game 3 and complete the sweep before losing again to the Phillies in the National League Championship Series.
2013 National League Championship Series
Cardinals win 4-2
The 2013 Dodgers had Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the height of their game. Their offense was led by Hanley Ramirez, who had just hit .500/.556/1.063 with six extra-base hits against the Braves in the divisional series. There were few better hitters at that moment in baseball.
In the first inning of Game 1 at St. Louis, Joe Kelly hit Ramirez in the ribs with a pitch. And though Ramirez would continue to play in the series, it was clear he was not the same player.
Ramirez would finish the series with just two singles and a .449 OPS in 19 plate appearances. In the first three losses to the Cardinals in this series, the Dodgers would lose 3-2 in 13 innings, 1-0 and 4-2. Though you can’t put this all on a diminished Ramirez, removing his offense was a blow this team could not overcome.
2014 National League Divisional Series
Cardinals win 3-1
The Cardinals had too many Matts in this series for the Dodgers to overcome. Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday got big hits in their comeback to win Game 1. In Game 4, Kershaw pitching on three-days rest gave up a three-run homer to Matt Adams which would end up beating the Dodgers.
Matt Kemp provided one highlight for the Dodgers when he a tie-breaking home run that led to the Dodgers winning Game 2.
That was the third of four career postseason home runs Kemp hit in his career with the Dodgers. But it was not enough as the Dodgers would lose this series in four games, preventing a showdown series with the Giants in the process.
Changes would come to the Dodgers after this postseason. Andrew Friedman was hired as president of baseball operations. Kemp would be part of a number of trades that would begin to enhance the roster and ensure future success. Justin Turner, who had but two plate appearances in the 2014 NLDS, would become one of the top postseason players in Dodger history in the following years.
Wednesday’s wild card game will bring something new to the Dodgers and Cardinals postseason history. These two teams have never played a winner-take-all game as their prior series ended before the final game had to be played.
That by itself should make it a worthy addition to these two teams’ long and storied history.