Wolf redeemed by second-chance start
ST. LOUIS -- Randy Wolf was looking for a measure of redemption. He found that, and much more, Thursday night at Busch Stadium.
Coming off a dreadful start in the National League Division Series, Wolf responded with a beauty for the Milwaukee Brewers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.
Wolf held the league's highest-scoring offense to two runs over seven innings. Not only did this lead to a 4-2 victory for Milwaukee, but it tied the series at two game apiece and regained home-field advantage for the Brewers.
Wolf had a very solid season for Milwaukee, but his performance in Game 4 of the NLDS against Arizona left him temporarily demoralized. With a chance to clinch that series, Wolf gave up seven earned runs in three innings.
"You know, I'll be honest with you, the day after the Diamondbacks start, I didn't eat or shower that day," Wolf said Thursday night. "I don't know if they call that depression, but it was tough to swallow."
That result left Wolf hoping desperately that Yovani Gallardo and the Brewers would win in Game 5 of the NLDS so that he would have another opportunity to make the kind of mark he wanted to make in the postseason.
"I felt that my offseason sanity was riding on that game," Wolf said.
He got the opportunity for another Game 4 start, this one in the NLCS. His performance was as necessary as it was outstanding, because without it, Milwaukee would have dropped into a 3-1 hole.
"Regardless of how the game went, I was satisfied with the fact that I was going to have that opportunity," Wolf said. "You know, you don't want to have just one opportunity and have it to be like it was. Going into it, I knew it was going to be either the Phillies or Cardinals, both very tough teams, but either one, I just really wanted to have had a chance.
"Regardless of what that result was, I just wanted to be back out there and have some kind of -- it's kind of a weird word, but it's redemption to go back out there."
The debacle against the D-backs did not shake the Brewers' confidence in Wolf.
"He probably had one other game this year that was kind of like that, but he bounces right back and has a good game," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said before Game 4. "That's what we expect from him [Thursday night]. But you'll see -- if he's got that good rhythm going, he's changing speeds and he's hitting spots, he's going to pitch well."
And Wolf validated the Brewers' confidence in him with a sterling performance. He held the Cardinals to two runs over seven innings. He gave up six hits, walked only one and struck out six. This performance earned Wolf his first victory in four postseason starts.
Thus, Wolf erased his name from the top of an undesirable list. Wolf was previously tied with Ted Lilly for making more regular-season starts (342) than any other active pitcher without a postseason victory. Lilly is now alone atop that list. Kyle Lohse -- the Cards' Game 4 starter -- moved into second place with his 298 career starts.
When Wolf is on, he has command of the strike zone with all of his pitches. He did not have that against Arizona, throwing just 41 of his 81 pitches for strikes. But in Busch Stadium in the NLCS, he threw 74 of his 107 pitches for strikes.
Roenicke displayed additional confidence in Wolf in a sixth-inning spot in which he could have pinch-hit for Wolf's personal catcher, George Kottaras, or Wolf, or both. With one out and runners on second and third in a 3-2 game, Roenicke stayed with Kottaras, and thus, Wolf. Kottaras reached on a run-scoring error. That was the only run the Brewers got out of this situation, but Wolf's subsequent performance in the sixth and seventh validated Roenicke's decision to stay with him.
This game required no further distinction, but Wolf grabbed another one anyway. He became the only starting pitcher in this series to go more than six innings.
All in all, it was a validation of Wolf's status in more ways than one.
"He's a pitcher," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "He's got a real good idea, he moves in and out, up and down, changes speed. He's got a nice fastball, cutter, changeup. He got a lot of outs on curveballs today. Probably the biggest thing he had working -- we made a lot of outs on the curveball."
With things looking bleak, Wolf found not only redemption on the mound for himself but another life in the NLCS for his team. If the Brewers go on to win this series, Randy Wolf will have provided the turning point. Even if Milwaukee does not win the series, it can be said that in a highly pressurized postseason situation, Randy Wolf delivered and won.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.