Power pitching often dominates in the postseason. Soft tosses by Randy Wolf got the Milwaukee Brewers back to even in the NL championship series.
The 35-year-old lefty outfoxed the St. Louis Cardinals for seven innings to earn his first postseason win and the Brewers got two more hits from Ryan Braun in a 4-2 victory Thursday night that evened the NL championship series at 2-all.
"It was a big feeling just to be back out there again after my last start," said Wolf, hit hard by Arizona to force a deciding Game 5 in the first round of the playoffs. "Just to be able to get another opportunity to pitch again was important.
"You know, I'll be honest with you, the day after the Diamondbacks start, I didn't eat or shower that day," he said.
Flipping some pitches in the mid-60s mph, Wolf allowed two runs and six hits, striking out six with one walk.
Matt Holliday and Allen Craig homered for the Cardinals, representing their only runs in the last 16 innings.
"I think it's classic because playing each other so many times, we're dead even," manager Tony La Russa said. "It comes down to that day, who makes the pitch."
Francisco Rodriguez allowed a hit in the eighth and John Axford finished for his second save of the series and third this postseason.
The Brewers ended an eight-game road losing streak in the postseason dating to the 1982 World Series opener at St. Louis. And Wolf ended a lengthy drought of his own - before Thursday, his 342 starts without a postseason victory were the most among active pitchers.
Game 4 loser Kyle Lohse moves to second on the list at 298 starts, trailing only Ted Lilly's 318.
Jaime Garcia faces Zack Greinke for the second time in the series in Game 5 Friday night. Either way, the NLCS will be decided back at Miller Park.
Jerry Hairston Jr. doubled twice with an RBI and Wolf hit one of the Brewers' five doubles. Braun is batting .471 (16 for 34) in the postseason with two homers and nine RBIs.
The Cardinals needed more heavy duty from their bullpen, too, after Lohse, pitching on 12 days' rest, failed to make it out of the fifth.
"I'm not going to blame it on the layoff," Lohse said. "We're professionals and we've got get the job done. Tonight, we didn't do it."
Pujols was a quiet 1 for 4 for St. Louis, which was 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position and is 0 for 15 after the first inning of Game 3.
"They have good pitching, but we have good pitching, too," Hairston said. "They've been good for us all year long."
Wolf kept the Cardinals off-balance with soft tosses and retired 13 of his last 15 hitters in his fourth career postseason start. It was a huge improvement from Game 4 of the NL division series at Arizona in which he surrendered seven runs in three innings.
Wolf also struggled in his last two regular season starts, allowing 10 runs in 11 2-3 innings.
"Regardless of how the game went, I was satisfied with the fact that I was going to have that opportunity," Wolf said. "It's kind of a weird word, but it's redemption to go back out there."
For the fourth straight game, the Cardinals had to lean heavily on their relievers. Lohse sailed through three innings and then allowed three doubles and three runs to his last eight hitters, and was charged with three runs in 4 1-3 innings.
Two of La Russa's moves paid off. Bumped down one spot to fifth, Holliday hit his first postseason homer and doubled.
Craig started in place of Lance Berkman, who was 3 for 32 lifetime against Wolf and had a minor right thigh bruise from getting hit by a pitch in Game 3. Craig hit his first career postseason homer made it 2-0 in the third.
The Brewers tied it in the fourth with their first runs since the third inning of Game 3 on doubles by Prince Fielder and Jerry Hairston Jr. and an RBI single by Yuniesky Betancourt.
Lohse was pulled after Nyjer Morgan doubled to start the fifth and advanced on a groundout, the heart of the order coming up. Braun's single off Mitchell Boggs put the Brewers in front although second baseman Ryan Theriot's sprawling stop transformed Fielder's smash into an inning-ending double play.
Rickie Weeks singled and Hairston doubled again to open the sixth, and the Brewers soon had a two-run cushion. George Kottaras hit a grounder against a drawn-in infield off Arthur Rhodes, and Theriot bobbled the ball on a short hop for an error.
The Cardinals' streak of scoring in the first inning ended at five games when they went down in order against Wolf, but they hurt the left-hander with opposite-field power the next two innings. Wolf fell behind the count to six of the first 14 hitters and the Cardinals were 4 for 5 with two homers, a double, single and walk.
Notes: Injured Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright caught the ceremonial first ball for the second straight game, this time from former Cardinals CF Jim Edmonds, accompanied by a young son who also made a throw. ... Home plate umpire Mike Everitt got stung in the upper right arm area by a foul ball off the bat of Rafael Furcal but stayed in the game. ... Mark Kotsay started in RF in place of Corey Hart, 2 for 17 against Lohse. ... The longest of Wolf's three previous preseason starts was 5 1-3 innings with the Dodgers on Oct. 19, 2009, at Philadelphia. ... An Anheuser-Busch wagon pulled by Clydesdales and loaded with baseballs made a circuit around the warning track during the pregame ceremonies.