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.
The Rays lost 4-1 to the Yankees on Monday night, which clinched a postseason berth for the Athletics just as they began their own game against the Mariners. For the 94-62 A’s, it’s their first postseason appearance since 2014 when they lost the AL Wild Card game to the Royals.
Major League Baseball celebrated the Athletics’ achievement by tweeting this fact: The A’s are the first team since 1988 to make the postseason with baseball’s lowest Opening Day payroll ($66 million).
John J. Fisher, who has owned the A’s since 2005, has a net worth approaching $3 billion. The Athletics franchise is valued at over $1 billion. Yet the A’s have never had an Opening Day payroll at $90 million or above and have consistently been among the teams with the lowest payrolls. The cultural shift towards embracing analytics has allowed the A’s to get away with investing as little money as possible into the team. Moneyball helped change baseball’s zeitgeist such that many began to fetishize doing things on the cheap and now the league itself is embracing it.
What the fact MLB tweeted says is actually this: John J. Fisher was able to save a few bucks this year and the A’s still somehow made it to the postseason.
The Athletics’ success is due to a whole host of players, but particularly youngsters Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Sean Manaea, Daniel Mengden, Lou Trivino, among others. All are pre-arbitration aside from Manaea. When it comes time to pay them something approaching what they’re actually worth, will the A’s reward them for their contributions or will they do what they’ve always done and cut bait? After reaching the postseason in 2014, the A’s traded away Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Jeff Samardzija, and John Jaso. Each was a big influence on the club’s success. Athletics fans should be happy their favorite team has reached the postseason, but if the team’s history is any precedent, they shouldn’t get attached to any of the players. Is that really something Major League Baseball should be advocating?