The St. Louis Cardinals caught a break, with a Dodgers star ruled out for the wild card game.
The St. Louis Cardinals will be significant underdogs in the wild card game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the defending World Series champions and winners of 106 games. But they won’t be at full strength — and it brings the gap between the two teams even closer.
Max Muncy, the Dodgers first baseman who was playing at an MVP level, injured his left elbow Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. After the game, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that Muncy is “very unlikely” to play in the NL wild card game and, if they advance, “unlikely” for the division series as well.
Muncy, 31, was hitting .249/.368/.527 with 36 home runs and 94 RBI. His absence is a significant blow to the Dodgers and opens the door for … Albert Pujols, a Cardinals legend, to see more playing time and possibly start against Adam Wainwright and his former team on Tuesday night.
However, it’s not so simple. Entering Sunday, Pujols had a .979 OPS against left-handers and a .500 OPS against right-handers. Do the Dodgers start him when the numbers are that skewed? The options behind Pujols aren’t that inspiring – Matt Beaty has hardly played and Cody Bellinger is a valuable defensive option in center field – so they may have no choice but to start Pujols at first base.
The Dodgers, however, have the talent throughout the lineup to overcome the loss of Muncy. Their lineup features three MVP-caliber players – Mookie Betts, Trea Turner and Corey Seager – in addition to Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Will Smith, AJ Pollock and Bellinger. Just because Muncy is out doesn’t mean this will suddenly be a cakewalk for the Cardinals. Not by a longshot. If they beat the Dodgers, and advance to the National League Division Series, the Cardinals will have earned it.
But accomplishing that became a little easier with the injury to Muncy. And the Cardinals, who recently won 17 consecutive games, should never be ruled out of any game. No matter the odds.