Call to Wolf is easy decision for Dodgers
Game 1 starter found his stride after frustrating first half
LOS ANGELES -- Before Randy Wolf became the most dependable starter for the Dodgers, his season was defined by a consistency of a different sort.
Time after time, Wolf took the mound and pitched five or six innings only to suffer the indignity of a no-decision.
His season was defined by a lack of definition. Of his first 18 starts, 12 did not make a mark on his record.
He was 3-3 (albeit with a 3.42 ERA) and the lack of resolution began to take its toll.
"I was wondering if I should fly to Haiti and get a voodoo doctor to undo the curse," Wolf quipped during his news conference on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Though Wolf didn't slaughter any chickens to appease the baseball gods -- or perform any other form of Santeria -- Wolf started to see results.
Not just results -- wins. Wolf went 8-4 with a 2.97 ERA in his final 16 starts of the season, a streak that earned him the starting nod in Game 1 of the National League Division Series against the Cardinals on Wednesday at 6:37 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.
The start will be Wolf's first postseason outing of his career.
"[It feels] exciting -- it's been a long road," said Wolf, who grew up in nearby Canoga Park, Calif. "Obviously, this is my 11th year and my first postseason appearance. ... It's really exciting to do it at home."
|Cardinals' Chris Carpenter||Dodgers' Randy Wolf|
|2009 REGULAR SEASON|
|Overall||28 GS, 17-4, 2.24 ERA, 38 BB, 144 K||34 GS, 11-7, 3.23 ERA, 58 BB, 160 K|
|Key stat||Allowed 7 HR all year||Went 6-1 in his last 10 starts|
|Career||8 GS, 5-1, 2.53||No appearances|
|AT DODGER STADIUM|
|2009||1 GS, 1-0. 2.25||18 GS, 4-3, 3.63|
|Career||2 GS, 2-0, 4.85||35 GS, 11-8, 3.99|
|AGAINST THIS OPPONENT|
|2009 regular season||2 GS, 2-0, 1.80||1 GS, 0-1, 3.00|
|Career||6 GS, 5-0, 2.20||10 GS, 3-5, 3.64|
|Loves to face||Rafael Furcal, 4-for-15, 0 XBH, 0 BB||Mark DeRosa, 8-for-32|
|Hates to face||Jim Thome, 7-for-24, 6 XBH||Brendan Ryan, 3-for-5|
|Why he'll win||3-0 in 3 career Division Series starts||Pitched well enough to beat them July 27|
|Pitcher beware||Walk rate up a touch (but still very good) in September||Holliday and Pujols have hit him well|
|Bottom line||Has dominated the Dodgers||It's his chance to be The Man|
Said Dodgers manager Joe Torre: "He's going to wear his heart on his sleeves. You'll see emotions. You'll see him snatch the ball back from [catcher] Russell Martin, and I think that's why he is who he is. ... He seems excited and I'm sure he's going to have a lot of butterflies tomorrow."
An exciting moment? Sure. An improbable one? Definitely.
Considering that Chad Billingsley made the NL All-Star roster, Hiroki Kuroda was the Opening Day starter and Clayton Kershaw has at times been the most dominant starter on the staff, it is a little surprising that it's Wolf who gets the ball in Game 1.
But it's understandable when glancing at the numbers.
Wolf led the Dodgers in innings pitched (214 1/3), and the club posted a 22-12 record in his starts.
If you still doubt that Wolf earned the Game 1 honor, just look at his most recent work. Wolf went 6-1 over his final 10 starts and posted a 2.54 ERA.
"To tell you the truth, I really wasn't doing that much better," Wolf said of his second-half success. "I just happened to be on the left side of the decision column instead of the middle, which I was in a lot.
"And I think we just played better baseball, and I happened to be out there pitching when we were playing better more consistently, and scoring early."
Wolf said one of the things that helped get him past the annoyance of all the no-decisions was the fact that the Dodgers were still winning most of his starts.
"I knew I was throwing consistently and keeping the team in the game."
But it's only human nature for Wolf to look at his 11 wins and wonder just how many he could have posted if a handful of those no-decisions went his way.
"No," he said through a sheepish grin.
Whatever his win total is or could have been, it was enough to propel him to a Game 1 start.
"It's going to be a battle," Wolf said. "If I execute what I want to execute, go out there and throw strikes, I think I'll give this team a chance to win."
David Ely is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.