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.
In 2016, Red Sox starter Rick Porcello narrowly and controversially eked ahead of then-Tigers starter Justin Verlander in Cy Young Award balloting, winning on points 137 to 132. Verlander was not included at all in the top-five of two ballots, both coincidentally belonging to writers from the Tampa Bay chapter, MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Fred Goodall of the Associated Press. Verlander had more first-place votes than Porcello, but being left out of the top-five on two ballots was the difference maker.
In the aftermath, Verlander’s then-fiancée Kate Upton fired off some angry tweets, as did Justin’s brother Ben.
Verlander was again in the running for the 2018 AL Cy Young Award. He again finished in second place, this time behind Blake Snell of the Rays. Snell had 17 first-place votes and 169 total points to Verlander’s 13 and 154. There weren’t any ballots that made a big difference like in 2016, but there were two odd ballots from the Tampa Bay chapter again.
If a chapter doesn’t have enough eligible voters, a voter from another chapter is chosen to represent that city. This year, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News was a replacement voter along with Mark Didtler, a freelancer for the Associated Press. Both writers voted for Snell in first place, reasonably. But neither writer put Verlander second, less reasonably, putting Corey Kluber there instead. Madden actually had Verlander fourth behind Athletics reliever Blake Treinen. Didtler had Treinen in fifth place. Two other writers had Verlander in third place: George A. King III of the New York Post and Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune. The other 26 had Verlander in first or second place.
Voting Kluber ahead of Verlander doesn’t make any sense, especially we finally live in a world where a pitcher’s win-loss record isn’t valued highly. Kluber had 20 wins to Verlander’s 16 and pitched one more inning. In every other area, Verlander was better. ERA? Verlander led 2.52 to 2.89. Strikeouts? Verlander led 290 to 222. Strikeout rate? Verlander led 34.8% to 26.4%. Opponent batting average? Verlander led .198 to .222. FIP and xFIP? Verlander led both 2.78 and 3.03 to 3.12 and 3.08, respectively. And while Treinen had an excellent year, Verlander pitched 134 more innings, which is significant.
Upton had another tweet for the occasion: