Brewers edge Cards, even series at 2-2

Posted Oct. 13, 2011, at 11:31 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 14, 2011, at 12:21 a.m.

ST. LOUIS — Randy Wolf outfoxed the St. Louis Cardinals for seven innings to earn his first postseason win at age 35 and the Milwaukee Brewers got two more hits from Ryan Braun in a 4-2 victory Thursday night that evened the NL championship series at 2-all.

Matt Holliday and Allen Craig homered for the Cardinals, representing their only runs in the last 16 innings.

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.

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 Kyle Lohse, pitching on 12 days’ rest, failed to make it out of the fifth.

Albert 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.

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.

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.

St. Louis relievers have worked 17 1-3 innings in the series.

Two of Cardinals manager Tony 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 pu lled by Clydesdales and loaded with baseballs made a circuit around the warning track during the pregame ceremonies.

FREE PASS: Both managers in the NL championship series have been reluctant to let the big hitters swing away.

Albert Pujols of the Cardinals was intentionally walked in back-to-back plate appearances Wednesday during St. Louis’ 4-3 win in Game 3. The strategy by Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke worked: Cardinals cleanup hitter Matt Holliday struck out both times.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa chose to walk Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder in the fifth inning of the same game with a runner on second and two outs, putting potential go-ahead run on base. That strategy worked, too, when Chris Carpenter struck out Rickie Weeks.

The strategy for Pujols ran counter to how he was generally treated this season during what for him was a down year — .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs. After leading the NL with 34, 44 and 38 intentional walks in the previous three seasons, Pujols received just 15 this year. That was due in large part to having Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman behind him. In fact, Berkman, with 17 inten tional walks, led St. Louis.

Then again, Pujols is on a postseason tear. Over the past two games before Thursday he was 6 for 7 with six RBIs and the two intentional walks.

“If there’s an open base, and two outs, it kind of makes sense” to walk Pujols, said Zack Greinke, Milwaukee’s scheduled Game 5 starter.

Fielder led the NL with 32 intentional walks. He already had three home runs in the postseason, including long balls in both NLCS games in Milwaukee. The Cardinals had intentionally walked him twice.

“Well, it’s an interesting strategic call,” La Russa said, noting that sometimes it’s better to bait an overeager hitter with pitches out of the strike zone.

“Of course, you can take advantage of a hitter who wants to drive in a run, so they will chase,” he added. “Sometimes you’ll get an out rather than just give up the base.”

Roenicke said the decision on an intentional walk can be gut-wrenching for a manager.

“It does eat you up at times,” he explained. “It eats you up more when you see the results maybe of a guy driving one in the gap or — we had a grand slam against us earlier in the playoffs against Arizona.”

CLEANUP CREW: A day after Matt Holliday twice failed to make the Brewers pay for intentionally walking Albert Pujols, Holliday was moved down to fifth in the Cardinals’ lineup.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa gave David Freese, who was leading the team with 11 RBIs in the postseason, a shot at cleanup. La Russa also tried to deflect pressure away from Holliday, who hadn’t regained his stroke since returning from an injury to his right middle finger.

Holliday, however, hit a solo homer to put the Cardinals ahead in Game 4 of the NL championship series.

Prior to Thursday night’s game, Holliday was batting .263 in the postseason with no extra-base hits, two RBIs and eight strikeouts — and he stranded five runners in Game 3. He grounded out with a man on second to end the second inning and struck out with two on in the fourth and sixth after Pujols was walked.

La Russa doesn’t think the injury is bothering Holliday, just his timing.

“He’s caught between a rock and a hard place. He’s missed some key at-bats,” La Russa said. “Here he is trying to get his stroke and his timing in the most pressure you feel all season, and it’s a little bit unfair.”

Holliday batted cleanup 99 times during the regular season, Freese just three times.

REMEMBERING MLK: Major League Baseball has donated $1 million to support the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

MLB announced the gift on Thursday. The memorial is to be dedicated on Sunday.

“We are proud to support the memorial in the spirit of Jackie Robinson and all the pillars of our national pastime,” Commissioner Bud Selig said.

GREINKE DONE: Zack Greinke apparently is done providing bulletin-board material.

Greinke rekindled some animosity between Milwaukee and St. Louis before the NL championship series with comments about Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, saying his Brewers teammates don’t much like the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner.

“They think his presence, his attitude out there sometimes is like a phony attitude,” Greinke said Saturday. “And then he yells at people. He just stares people down and stuff. And most pitchers just don’t do that.”

Greinke, set to start Game 5 for Milwaukee on Friday, said Thursday that he caught flak from his own wife about those comments. Otherwise, he was in no mood to revisit them.

“My wife likes to read stuff and then she gets mad, and she’s mad that I said it,” Greinke said. “But it just happened and don’t need to talk about it anymore.”

POWER SURGE: Rangers slugger Nelson Cruz hit his fifth home run of the American League championship series in Game 5 at Detroit, setting a record for an LCS.

“That’s special, but it will mean a lot more if we win the series,” Cruz said.

On an 0-2 count, Cruz sent a 100 mph fastball from Justin Verlander to left field with a runner on in the eighth inning Thursday to pull Texas within three runs. It was Verlander’s 133rd and final pitch of the game.

The Tigers held on to win 7-5, cutting the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Game 6 is Saturday in Texas.

The home run was down the left-field line, and Cruz stood near the plate to follow the ball. Verlander said he had no problem with Cruz watching whether it would land fair or foul.

“You’ve got to be careful of that guy now,” Verlander said.

Cruz became the fifth player to hit five homers in a postseason series. Reggie Jackson, Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Gonzalez and Chase Utley were the others.

Jackson (1977) and Utley (2009) accomplished the feat in the World Series. Gonzalez did it in only four games for the Rangers in the 1996 division series against the New York Yankees.

Cruz’s teammate in Texas, Josh Hamilton, hit four homers in the ALCS last year against the Yankees.

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