October 13, 2011
Kyle Lohse(notes) versus Randy Wolf(notes) might be the furthest thing from an exciting postseason pitching matchup, but these are the two men the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers will turn to for Thursday night's Game 4 at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis grabbed the lead in the series with their 4-3 victory in Game 3 on Wednesday. A huge win for them, which sets up an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 advantage, while leaving open the possibility of not returning to Milwaukee. On the flip side, the Brewers desperately need to even this series so that regardless of Game 5's result, they will have a chance to win the NLCS at Miller Park. It's a pivotal contest.
In order for each team to get their desired result, they will undoubtedly need big bounce-back starts from Lohse and Wolf. Both are two veteran starting pitchers that filled their roles as middle-of-rotation arms more than admirably during the regular season, but suffered ugly, confidence-shaking losses — at least among their fan bases — in their NLDS starts.
With that in mind, let's take a quick look back at their LDS starts, how the pitchers fared against Thursday's opposition in 2011, what they're saying heading into the important start, with a little analysis along the way.
Actually, the numbers could have been a bit better for Lohse, but manager Tony La Russa stuck with him a little too long in what became a five-run sixth inning. Lohse allowed a three-run homer to Ryan Howard(notes) in the inning, and then a two-run shot to Raul Ibanez(notes).
vs. Milwaukee in 2011: 1-2, 2.37 ERA in three starts.
Two of those starts came at Busch Stadium, with Lohse posting an impressive 0.64 ERA in 14 innings.
"With these guys, you've got to be really careful of trying to keep guys off the bases in front of Braun and Fielder. It's no secret you do your best to face them without guys in scoring position, or kind of pick your poison between the two. The Phillies had that same kind of deal where you had Howard, obviously he hurt me in that last series, and just trying to keep those guys out of there. It's not really a secret; you have to keep the ball on the ground, because they can put it out if you leave it up."
Quick thought: Lohse last pitched on Oct. 1, so he'll have to fight a little rust initially. Pitching at home should help, as should the 11-day layoff he had back in July bridging starts around the All-Star break. He struggled slightly in the latter outing, but indicated on Wednesday that he learned from the experience.
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There's no way to dress up those numbers. Wolf was torched immediately, allowing a five-run first inning that was capped by a Ryan Roberts(notes) grand slam. He couldn't settle in, either, allowing two more runs in the third after Milwaukee's offense had cut the lead to 5-3.
vs. St. Louis in 2011: 3-2 with a 5.34 in five starts.
Four of Wolf's starts against St. Louis came after Aug. 1 and the two at Busch Stadium were particularly good (2-0, 1.12) so there should be hope he can build on those positive results.
"I have to find a way to throw pitches for strikes and figure out early — you know I was very stubborn with my curveball the last game. I kept on throwing it and it got me behind in a lot of counts. So I have to find out early what I'm going to throw for strikes, and after I do that, the first two or three innings, then you can figure out what other pitches you can go to, and what pitches I need to get back in counts and what pitches I need to get ahead in counts."
Quick thought: If Wolf can establish his command and avoid the rough first inning, I think chances are good he'll settle in to help complete what could be a surprsing pitcher's duel.
Could be. Not saying it will be, but Ron Roenicke and especially Tony La Russa will cross their fingers after both bullpens were stretched a little further than anticipated with Chris Carpenter and Yovani Gallardo(notes) getting off to slow starts in Game 3. The aces eventually settled in, but neither could get past the fifth inning.
Things set up a little better for Milwaukee as it avoided using John Axford(notes) and Francisco Rodriguez, but with Game 5 right away on Friday, either side could find themselves thin on middle relievers if Lohse or Wolf can't work deep in Game 4.