Performer of the Game: Brewers lefty Wolf

Performer of the Game: Brewers lefty Wolf

ST. LOUIS -- As the Brewers battled the D-backs in the pivotal Game 5 of the National League Division Series last week, all Randy Wolf could do was sit and watch. And hope that his disastrous start in Game 4 -- seven earned runs over three innings in a 10-6 loss -- hadn't cost them the series.

In the end, it didn't, as Milwaukee won Game 5, 3-2, to advance to the NL Championship Series.

"You know, I'll be honest with you, the day after the Diamondbacks start, I didn't eat or shower that day," Wolf said Thursday night. "I don't know if they call that depression, but it was tough to swallow."

He'll be eating well -- and be clean -- Friday after cashing in on his shot at redemption.

In what the left-hander called the biggest start of his career, Wolf pitched seven stellar innings Thursday night in a 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Busch Stadium that knotted the NLCS at two games apiece and regained home-field advantage for the Brewers.

"Regardless of how the game went, I was satisfied with the fact that I was going to have that opportunity," Wolf said. "You know, you don't want to have just one opportunity and have it to be like it was.

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"I just wanted to be back out there and have some kind of -- it's kind of a weird word, but it's redemption to go back out there."

With the Brewers needing to win at least one game in St. Louis to send the series back home to Milwaukee, the pressure was on Wolf to perform. After he gave up seven runs on eight hits in just three innings in Game 4 of the NLDS against Arizona, Wolf turning in the best start of the NLCS was hardly expected.

Just pitching five or six innings and giving Milwaukee a chance to win would have been good enough. Instead, the veteran lefty became the first pitcher in the series for either team to go seven innings, and he had the first quality start of the NLCS as he gave up just two runs on six hits.

"Great to see," said Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. "Wolfy [did a] great job. We needed it. He came through big, got us deep in the game. Outstanding job from him."

It was Wolf's first career postseason win in his fourth start. In picking up the win, Wolf also erased his name from the top of a very undesirable list.

Wolf previously was tied with Ted Lilly as the two active pitchers who had made the most regular-season starts (342) without a single postseason win. Lilly is now alone atop that list, and Kyle Lohse -- the Cards' Game 4 starter -- moved into second place with his 298 career starts.

In three career postseason starts entering Thursday's game, Wolf had been 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA, giving up 12 earned runs in 12 innings pitched.

In his last outing, Wolf threw 81 pitches, 41 of which went for strikes. When he has been most successful this season, he usually throws about 60 to 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. As he showed in Game 4 the type of control that can make Wolf so tough to beat, 74 of his 107 pitches were strikes.

"Well, he's a pitcher," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. "He's got a real good idea, he moves in and out, up and down, changes speed. He's got a nice fastball, cutter, changeup. He got a lot of outs on curveballs today. Probably the biggest thing he had working -- we made a lot of outs on the curveball."

Brewers catcher George Kottaras, who has caught 24 of Wolf's 35 starts this season, said the difference between Wolf's NLDS start and Thursday night's was that he was overthrowing the ball a lot against the D-backs.

Wolf also got through the first inning retiring St. Louis in order, something he had not done in any of his previous 13 starts.

"It was huge; he came out and set the tone," said Kottaras. "He was pitching a lot more, keeping hitters off balance, throwing his breaking ball in for strikes early. When he does that, he's very successful."

Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.