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Dodgers have played 16 winner-take-all playoff games. Here’s the story of each one

Dodgers teammates (from left) Austin Barnes, Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw celebrate after winning the 2018 NLCS.
Dodgers teammates (from left) Austin Barnes, Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw celebrate after winning the 2018 NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
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In 2021 the Los Angeles Dodgers tied a franchise record for victories (106). They had the largest run differential in the majors by 59 runs. They won 16 more games, and outscored their opponents by 225 more runs, than the St. Louis Cardinals, their foe in Wednesday night’s play-in wildcard game. They have won their last 15 games in Dodger Stadium, site of the play-in game.

They are a wrecking ball.

On a Los Angeles radio show Monday evening, former Dodger great and TV analyst Orel Hershiser left no doubt about his belief that the Dodgers will dominate any five- or seven-game series. But a one-game wildcard that stands between Los Angeles and those five- and seven-game series? That, Hershiser explained, is where the baseball gods—or randomness if you’re an atheist about these things—get to meddling. Even the worst baseball teams defeat the best ones several times a season.

The matchup against the Cardinals is the first play-in game for the Dodgers since 1980 and the 17th winner-take-all game in franchise history, the last being Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Their success rate in those games is a telling one, and re-enforces Hershiser’s point.

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1951 tiebreaker series

Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese crosses home plate behind New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum.
Brooklyn Dodgers shortstop Pee Wee Reese crosses home plate behind New York Giants catcher Wes Westrum at the Polo Grounds in New York on Oct. 3, 1951.
(Associated Press)

Game 3
October 3
New York Giants 5, Brooklyn Dodgers 4

Small forests have been felled in the telling and re-telling of the Most Famous Tiebreaker Game of Them All (Sorry, ‘78 Red Sox-Yankees). After the Dodgers smoked the Giants 10-0 in Game 2, they took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3. Whitey Lockman’s RBI double chased Dodgers starter Don Newcombe, who was replaced by Ralph Branca with the Dodgers holding a 4-2 lead. The first batter he faced was Bobby Thomson (who in Game 1 hit a much-less-famous, game-deciding homer off Branca). You know the rest.

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1952 World Series

The Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers for the 1952 World Series.
The Brooklyn Dodgers pitchers for the 1952 World Series (from left): Joe Black, Carl Erskine, Preacher Roe, Billy Loes, and Johnny Rutherford.
(Associated Press)

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Game 7
October 7
New York Yankees 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 2

The first of three seven-game World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees in the ‘50s. With Brooklyn up 3-2 in the Series and returning home to Ebbets Field for Games 6 and 7, Mickey Mantle hit solo homers that were the difference in each game, spoiling an epic performance from Duke Snider, who hit a then-record four homers in the Series.

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1955 World Series

Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres is lifted by catcher Roy Campanella after the final out of Game 7.
Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres is lifted by catcher Roy Campanella after the final out of Game 7 of the 1955 World Series against New York at Yankee Stadium on Oct. 4, 1955.
(Associated Press)

Game 7
October 4
Brooklyn Dodgers 2, New York Yankees 0

In the first of consecutive World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees that went the distance, the Bronx Bombers took the first two games in Yankee Stadium — Game 1 famously included Jackie Robinson’s straight steal of home in New York’s 6-5 victory — before the Dodgers won the next three at Ebbets Field. The Yankees won Game 6 behind Whitey Ford, who got the run support he needed in the first, when New York scored all five of its runs. Johnny Podres pitched an eight-hit shutout in Game 7 that delivered the Dodgers their first World Series championship and Podres, at year’s end, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award.

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1956 World Series

New York Yankees pitcher Don Larsen delivers during his perfect game in Game 5 of the 1956 World Series.
(Associated Press)

Game 7
October 9
New York Yankees 9, Brooklyn Dodgers 0

This seven-game classic will be best remembered not for the winner-take-all Game 7, but rather for Game 5, in which Don Larsen spun the first, and still only, perfect game in World Series history. The Dodgers rebounded in Game 6 behind a 10-inning shutout by Clem Labine, who got the win when Jackie Robinson drove home Jim Gilliam with a walk-off single. The Yankees, however, hit four home runs, including two by Series MVP Yogi Berra, in the Game 7 rout.

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1962 tiebreaker series

San Francisco's Ernie Bowman scores a game-tying run in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1962 NL tiebreaker series.
San Francisco’s Ernie Bowman scores a game-tying run in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1962 NL tiebreaker series against the Dodgers.
(Associated Press)

Game 3
October 3
San Francisco Giants 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 4

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Now both on the West Coast, the two archrivals reprised the drama of their 1951 tiebreaker series with another classic. Again in the clincher, the Dodgers — who had forced Game 3 with a walk-off victory on a Ron Fairly sacrifice fly the previous day — held a ninth-inning lead but were unable to hold on. Four walks in the top of the ninth, including the go-ahead, bases-loaded walk to Jim Davenport, was Los Angeles’ undoing.

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1965 World Series

Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax delivers against the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium.
Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax delivers against the Minnesota Twins at Metropolitan Stadium in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series.
(Associated Press)

Game 7
October 16
Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Minnesota Twins 0

In what would be his penultimate postseason, Sandy Koufax, making his third start of the Series, struck out 10 in a three-hit shutout. The Dodgers scored both runs in the fourth inning, on a Lou Johnson homer and a Wes Parker triple. Koufax was named the Series MVP for the second time in three years, yielding one earned run in 24 innings and striking out 29. He pitched Game 7 on two days’ rest.

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1980 tiebreaker game

Houston's Cesar Cedeno runs into and bumps Dodgers shortstop Derrel Thomas after successfully stealing second.
Houston’s Cesar Cedeno runs into and bumps Dodgers shortstop Derrel Thomas after successfully stealing second base during a tiebreaker series on Oct. 5, 1980.
(Associated Press)

October 6
Houston Astros 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 1

Facing elimination in each of the three home games against the division-leading Astros, the Dodgers swept the season-ending series, winning each game by one run, to force a play-in game Monday at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles nearly had been eliminated in the first game of the series. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers tied the game on a Ron Cey sacrifice fly and won it in the 10th on a leadoff homer by Joe Ferguson. The tiebreaker was far less dramatic: Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda went with Dave Goltz and the game was over by the fourth inning, when Houston took a 7-0 lead.

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1981 NLDS

Steve Garvey scores in front of Dodgers teammate Bill Russell.
Steve Garvey scores in front of Dodgers teammate Bill Russell during Game 5 of the NLDS against the Houston Astros on Oct. 11, 1981.
(Associated Press)

Game 5
October 12
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Houston Astros 0

One year later, the Dodgers turned the tables on the Astros. After scoring a single run and falling behind 2-0 in a divisional playoff created by that summer’s strike, Los Angeles held the Astros to two runs over the next three games to advance to the NLCS, where the elimination drama would escalate.

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1981 NLCS

Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is doused with champagne by teammate Tom Niedenfuer.
Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela is doused with champagne by teammate Tom Niedenfuer after an NLCS victory over the Montreal Expos on Oct. 19, 1981.
(Associated Press)

Game 5
October 19
Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Montreal Expos 1

Down 2-1 in the series and on the road in Montreal, the Dodgers broke open a 1-1 Game 4 with six runs over the final two innings to force a frigid Game 5 at Olympic Stadium (the finale was delayed a day because of a snow postponement). This game, too, was a 1-1 pitchers duel, between rookie Fernando Valenzuela and Ray Burris. Both managers turned to frontline starters in the ninth, with the Expos’ Dick Williams going to ace Steve Rogers, who surrendered a home run to Rick Monday in the top of the inning. After back-to-back, two-out walks issued by Valenzuela in the bottom half, manager Tom Lasorda turned to Bob Welch, who induced a groundout to deliver the Dodgers to their third World Series in five years.

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1988 NLCS

Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, top left, celebrates with catcher Mike Scioscia and teammates Steve Sax and Franklin Stubbs.
Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, top left, celebrates with catcher Mike Scioscia and teammates Steve Sax and Franklin Stubbs, right, after defeating the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS.
(Lennox McLendon / Associated Press)

Game 7
October 12
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, New York Mets 0

The most memorable result in this seven-game series was not an elimination game: Trailing 4-2 and down to their last out in Game 4, the Dodgers tied the score on a Mike Scioscia homer off Dwight Gooden, then won the game in the 12th on Kirk Gibson’s second-most-famous homer that postseason. After David Cone shut down the Dodgers in Game 6 at Dodger Stadium, Orel Hershiser — in the midst of a historic finish to the season — went the distance in the franchise’s first-ever NLCS Game 7.

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2015 NLDS





Howie Kendrick strikes out against the New York Mets, eliminating the Dodgers in the 2015 NLDS.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Game 5
October 10
New York Mets 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 2

Clayton Kershaw pitched seven strong innings and Justin Turner’s two-run single highlighted a three-run third inning for the Dodgers, who avoided elimination at CitiField in Game 4. Back home for the winner-take-all game, the Dodgers took a 2-1 first-inning lead, but runs in the fourth and sixth innings lifted the Mets to the series win.

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2016 NLDS

Dodger players and coaches celebrate in the dugout.
Dodger players and coaches celebrate a run-scoring single by Carlos Ruiz in the seventh inning of Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS against the Washington Nationals.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

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Game 5
October 13
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Washington Nationals 3

A Joc Pederson home run to lead off the seventh inning tied the score 1-1 and forced Nationals starter Max Scherzer from the mound. The Dodgers added three runs off three Nationals relievers in the seventh to take a 4-1 lead that was cut to 4-3 in the bottom of the inning. Kenley Jensen came on in the seventh, getting out of a bases-loaded mess, and pitched into the ninth, when he was lifted for Clayton Kershaw after walking two batters. Kershaw retired both batters he faced for the save.

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2017 World Series

Dodgers players Kiké Hernández, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Austin Barnes watch the Astros celebrate.
Dodgers players (from second left) Kiké Hernández, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Austin Barnes watch the Houston Astros celebrate after winning the 2017 World Series.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Game 7
November 1
Houston Astros 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 1

Three nights earlier, all hell broke loose in Houston to send the Dodgers to the brink of elimination. The 13-12 Astros win in Game 5 included seven home runs, five by Houston; another early postseason exit by Clayton Kershaw; two squandered L.A. leads of at least three runs; a three-run ninth-inning lead squandered by the Houston bullpen; and, of course, trash cans. Game 6, back in Dodger Stadium, was a much crisper affair, with L.A. beating Astros ace Justin Verlander behind Rich Hill and four relievers, the last of which was Kenley Jansen, who retired the final six Astros in order.

The Astros opened an early lead in Game 7, scoring two runs in the first inning and three in the second off Yu Darvish, the last two runs coming on George Springer’s fifth home run of the Series. The Dodgers — playing their first World Series Game 7 since 1965 — were held to six hits, scoring on a sixth-inning single by Andre Ethier. The story of this Fall Classic, we eventually learned, was only beginning.

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2018 NLCS

Walker Buehler pitches in the first inning for the Dodgers against the Brewers in the 2018 playoffs.
Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler delivers against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 7 of the 2018 NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Game 7
October 20
Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Milwaukee Brewers 1

After the Brewers forced a seventh game with an easy Game 6 victory, the Dodgers closed out their second consecutive NL pennant by scoring all five of their runs on homers, a Cody Bellinger two-run shot in the second and a three-run blast by Yasiel Puig in the sixth. For the first time since 1977-78, the Dodgers were headed to consecutive Fall Classics.

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2019 NLDS

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout during the Dodgers' Game 5 loss.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw sits in the dugout during the Dodgers’ Game 5 loss to the Washington Nationals in the 2019 NLDS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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Game 5
October 9
Washington Nationals 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 3

The Dodgers appeared headed for a fourth straight NLCS when they took a 3-1 lead into the eighth with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Kershaw, who had come on in relief of Walker Buehler to get out of a seventh-inning jam, allowed back-to-back homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to lead off the eighth, paving the way for Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in the 10th off Joe Kelly to end Los Angeles’ season.

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2020 NLCS

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías celebrates in front of catcher Will Smith.
Dodgers pitcher Julio Urías celebrates in front of catcher Will Smith after beating the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS.
(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

Game 7
October 18
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Atlanta Braves 3

Never had the Dodgers come back from a 3-1 postseason deficit — until 2020. Corey Seager, the eventual NLCS MVP, supplied the offense in Games 5 and 6, hitting three homers. In the clincher the Dodgers trailed 3-2 in the sixth when Kiké Hernández tied the score with a homer. Cody Bellinger’s solo shot in the seventh broke the tie and Julio Urías continued an excellent postseason by retiring all nine Braves he faced to send the Dodgers back to the World Series.

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