video thumbnail

LAD@MIL: Wolf pitches eight scoreless innings to win

The Cardinals are trying to stay alive in the National League Central, and the performance of their closer is one of the keys they'll be counting on. The Brewers have taken control of the division in part because of the success of their starters.

When the two clubs meet at Miller Park on Wednesday, with St. Louis' Jake Westbrook taking on Milwaukee's Randy Wolf, those strengths figure to be on display.

St. Louis' relief work at the end of games might fluctuate from night to night, but the performance has been there of late. And Wolf's recent body of work is exactly what the Brewers are looking for come September and, as they're hoping, well into October.

The Cardinals never formally announced Fernando Salas as their closer, but for a large chunk of the season, he was. Now, though, things are a bit different. Salas has faded a bit, while Jason Motte and Kyle McClellan have come on strong.

While Salas hasn't been taken out of the role -- he closed out Tuesday's game -- Motte was called upon to close a game over the weekend, and he's likely to get more chances considering his recent numbers. McClellan may get some looks as well, particularly in situations where the opponent has a dangerous lefty or two coming up in the ninth.

If it looks like the Cardinals' closing situation is a committee, well, it might be because it is.

"[It depends on] who's available and who the hitters are," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "Motte continues to pitch really well, so he deserves that consideration. The last several appearances, it looked like McClellan has really gotten back into his reliever mode.

"So I think you look at who's available and who comes to bat. Each guy kind of has a different look to him, so they match up better depending on who the hitters are."

As for the Brewers, the veteran lefty Wolf has his sights on October and is in rare form, having gone 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA over his last six starts. Wolf has made 18 quality starts this season, and the team is 16-11 when he pitches. He's hit double digits in wins for the last four seasons.

In his last outing, he beat the Cubs with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He said the team is right where it should be at this time of year.

"I'm not a big believer in fate, but I think the thing is that we're playing good baseball, and I think if you believe you can win, those opportunities create themselves," Wolf said.

"You are your thoughts. If you think you can win, you're going to find ways to do it."

Cardinals: The Westbrook file
• Westbrook lost, 5-1, in his last start against the Brewers on Aug. 10 at Busch Stadium, although he tied his season high of eight innings and allowed only three runs in a quality start. The Cardinals are 12-2 this season when he throws six or more innings in a start, and he is 7-3 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 road starts this season. He received a no-decision last Friday (Aug. 26) in a 5-4 win over Pittsburgh, allowing four runs in six innings.

• Albert Pujols has batted .303 (30-for-99) with seven homers, 13 RBIs and 19 runs in his 26 games thus far in August. Over the previous 10 years of his career, Pujols has averaged a .346 batting average (36-for-104) with eight homers, 21 RBIs and 23 runs during an average of 27 games played in August.

• Motte made his 18th consecutive scoreless appearance on Tuesday. He's allowed only five baserunners in that stretch (15 innings).

Brewers: Home sweet home
• The Brewers are 50-17 (.746) at home this season, including 17-4-0 in series play. Their .746 home winning percentage leads the Majors, and the team is 21-4 over its last 25 home games and 27-6 overall in its last 33.

The Brewers are 21-6 this month and need a win Wednesday for the winningest month in franchise history. They also had 21 wins in June 1978 (21-9).  

"This is a good team, and I've said before that I know we're capable of playing this type of ball," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "But to play it for that long a period, it's really hard to do, and we've done it. "

• With one more home run this season, first baseman Prince Fielder will become the first player in franchise history with five consecutive 30-plus-homer seasons. He and Jeromy Burnitz (1998-2001) have four straight.

• Third baseman Casey McGehee is batting .281 (39-for-139) with five homers and 25 RBIs over his last 39 games, raising his season batting average from .221 to .238 during this stretch.

Worth noting
• Cardinals infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker has 23 multi-hit games this year and leads the team with a .600 pinch-hit batting average (6-for-10). He leads the team with a post-All-Star-break batting average of .347 (42-for-121).

• Reliever Francisco Rodriguez has appeared in 19 games with Milwaukee, going 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA (six earned runs in 17 1/3 innings).

MLB.com Comments