Just as Wednesday night’s NLCS Game 3 was supposed to be a pitchers’ duel and wasn’t, Game 4 of the NLCS was supposed to be an offensive shootout — filled with fireworks. And it wasn’t.
Yes, the Brewers had 10 hits and the Cardinals had eight. But the story of Thursday night’s game at a packed Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis was the pitching of Brewers left-hander Randy Wolf.
Wolf surrendered a solo home run to Matt Holliday in the second inning that barely creeped over the right field wall, then Allen Craig delivered a shot in the third inning that was more of a no-doubter. But that’s where the damage stopped.
Because of Wolf and the Brewers’ bullpen, the Redbirds did not score another run after the bottom of the third inning and Milwaukee was able to rally back for a crucial 4-2 victory in Game 4 of the NLCS.
Wolf pitched seven solid innings, scattering six hits and fanning six batters while issuing only one walk. He threw 74 of his 107 pitches for strikes and out-dueled St. Louis’ Kyle Lohse, who was yanked in the fifth.
Wolf, a 35-year-old in the twilight of his career, yielded seven runs in just three innings during a disastrous NLDS start against the Diamondbacks. But he rallied back in a big way on Thursday in the Gateway City, and insured that this seven-game series will head back to Miller Park, where the Brewers play so well.
1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Indians early last month. The 34-year-old had spent the last seven and a half seasons with the Blue Jays, but his future elsewhere appeared to be written on the wall when the Jays signed Kendrys Morales in November to essentially occupy Encarnacion’s role.
Encarnacion spoke about testing free agency for the first time in his career and the situation that led to him leaving Toronto for Cleveland. Via Jorge L. Ortiz of USA TODAY:
“Toronto was always my first option, but I had never been a free agent, and anybody who gets to free agency wants to find out what’s out there,’’ he said. “I think they got too hasty in making their decision, but now I’m with Cleveland and I’m happy to be here.’’
Encarnacion last season hit .263/.357/.529 with 42 home runs and an AL-best 127 RBI. He’s now on the team that defeated his Blue Jays in the ALCS to advance to the World Series. Encarnacion effectively replaces Mike Napoli, who returned to the Rangers.
I’m on record saying that Sammy Sosa has been rather hosed by baseball history.
The guy did amazing things. Unheard-of things. He was truly astounding at this peak and was incredibly important to both his franchise and Major League Baseball as a whole. His repayment: he’s a pariah. His club won’t claim him and his greatness, by any measure, has not just been overlooked but denied by most who even bother to consider him.
Yes, he had PED associations, but they were extraordinarily vague ones. He’s in the same boat as David Ortiz as far as documented PED evidence against him, but Ortiz will be a first ballot Hall of Famer while Sosa barely clings to the ballot. He hit homers at the same cartoonish rate as Mark McGwire, but while Big Mac has been embraced by baseball and has coached for years, Sosa can’t get into Wrigley Field unless he buys a ticket and even then the Cubs might try to hustle him out of sight. The man has been treated poorly by any measure.
Yet, it’s still possible to overstate the case. Like Sosa did in this interview with Chuck Wasserstrom:
It’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem,” Sosa told chuckbloggerstrom.com. “Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) — and he was our savior. So if they talk (bleep) about Jesus Christ, what about me? Are you kidding me?”
At least he was basically joking about it. Still, it’s a totally unfair and almost offensive comparison.
I mean, anyone who watched Sosa’s career knows that he had trouble laying off breaking stuff low and away. In contrast . . .