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3 takeaways from the Dodgers’ Wild Card win

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Chris Taylor hits the walk-off home run to send the Dodgers to San Francisco

MLB: Wildcard-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers delivered one of the greatest playoff victories in franchise history. Here are three takeaways from last night’s win.

Dave Roberts managed a hell of a game

When things go wrong in baseball, the easiest thing to do is blame the manager. If a move doesn’t work, it’s easy to question whether or not the manager made the right call. Tonight, we’re doing the exact opposite. We’re praising the manager, because Dave Roberts did a fantastic job tonight.

His first big moment came in the fifth inning, when there were two runners on base with one out. Nearing 100 pitches, Roberts made the difficult decision to take Max Scherzer out of the game. After recording a strikeout, you could tell that Scherzer didn’t want to come out. Roberts turned the ball over to Joe Kelly, asking him to record the two biggest outs of the season.

Kelly got Nolan Arenado to ground out and then proceeded to strike out Dylan Carlson. The decision paid off big time.

“I trust those guys, the pitching staff, the run prevention group, front office as far as information,” Roberts said. “It’s a collective effort as far as trying to put those guys in the best position to have success, and ultimately the players have got to make pitches and make plays, and they’ve done that time and time again.”

The bullpen absolutely shoved

The first two takeaways can combine into one, because they go hand in hand. But wow what a performance by the bullpen. Every reliever that came into the game did their job and tossed a scoreless outing.

In the sixth, Roberts turned to Brusdar Graterol to face the bottom half of the lineup. He needed only six pitches to get through the inning. Instead of going with a high-leverage arm, Roberts chose Graterol and banked on him getting through it without allowing a run.

“They’ve been outstanding,” Cody Bellinger said. “I mean, they’ve been doing this all year. They did it on the big stage, so a lot more people could see. They’ve been doing it all year, and just props to them for being able to do it and continuing to do it. It’s not easy. It’s not easy.”

By saving his arms, Roberts turned to Blake Treinen in the seventh inning. Treinen gave LA 1 23 innings, leaving the game with a runner on first. After allowing a leadoff single in the eighth inning, Treinen got back-to-back outs, needing only one out to get out of the inning.

Roberts then gave the ball to Corey Knebel, bringing him in to face Harrison Bader. It was a battle, as he threw eight pitches, but Knebel got Bader to swing and miss on an 80-mph curveball to end the inning.

The ninth inning belonged to Kenley Jansen. Things got a little nerve-wracking, as he allowed a single with one out. After that, the big man shut things down. He retired the next two hitters, striking each out each hitter to give him three for the inning.

“To turn the ball over to our bullpen and they have been our backbone all year long, and for them to go out and give us four plus shutout innings and give the offense a chance to keep coming up and take a big swing, you can’t say enough about those guys,” Justin Turner said.

It wouldn’t be possible without Cody Bellinger

Everyone will remember Chris Taylor hitting the walk-off home run, but none of it would have been possible without Cody Bellinger. After the first two hitters got out to begin the inning, Bellinger was at the plate with two outs. He quickly fell behind 0-1, but was able to battle back and work the walk, representing the game-winning run on base.

Bellinger then stole second base, putting the winning run even closer. It turns out that it didn’t even matter as Taylor hit a home run, but Bellinger was able to extend the rally.

“The at-bats that he took tonight, take the walk, base hit, a couple stolen bases, that’s what we need from him,” Roberts said. “To be that dynamic player, not that one-dimensional home run hitter. He’s embraced that, and he helped us win a ballgame tonight.”

Bellinger quietly had a fantastic game, as he reached base three times and had two stolen bases. It was certainly the welcoming sight, considering how badly his 2021 campaign went.

“Think at this point it’s time to forget the season and just move on to postseason and try to help this team win in any way you can, offense, defense, baserunning,” Bellinger said. “There’s a lot more aspects to the game. I feel good and I’m feeling healthy. Any way I can impact the game, I’m trying to impact it.”