Randy Wolf steps up as Brewers even NLCS with 4-2 Game 4 victory over Cardinals

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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.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.