Friday's Frosty Mug

Here we see the Wolf in his natural habitat: Beast Mode.

Some things to read while talking about baseball for once.

First it was a best of seven, then it was a best of five and now we're down to a best of three for a spot in the World Series as the Brewers and Cardinals evened their series again last night. This is the first League Championship to play to a 2-2 tie in the last 14 opportunities. Dan Szymborski estimates the Brewers have a 53% chance of coming out on top this weekend. Before last night's game, J-Doug of Beyond the Box Score had them at 34.9%.

Randy Wolf was the story last night, keeping the Cardinals in check for seven innings as the Brewers picked up a 4-2 win to even the NLCS at two games a piece. Scott Miller of CBS has a look at the difference an operational jock strap might have made in Wolf's performance. Meanwhile at Roto Hardball, Jack Moore has a look at Wolf's tendency to perform better than his peripheral numbers would suggest, while Jaymes Langrehr of The Brewers Bar discusses the difference in his pitches last night compared to his NLDS meltdown.

Even if Wolf had done nothing else, the fact that he held the Cardinals scoreless in the first inning would have been notable. Cory Provus pointed out that the Brewers have been outscored 14-5 in the first inning this October. Last night was only the fourth time they've held a team scoreless in the frame, and the second in the NLCS.

It's hard not to feel good for Wolf. Here's what he told reporters after the game:

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

Hopefully this isn't his last start in 2011, but if it is at least Wolf got an outing he can be proud of.

He wasn't last night's top story, but John Axford recorded the final three outs for his third save of the postseason, and Trenni Kusnierek noted that he hit 99 on the gun at Busch Stadium while doing so. Brooks Baseball says he actually topped out at 99.5 in the inning.

This happens so often lately it's hardly news: Ryan Braun had two more hits last night and is now 16-for-34 this postseason. Jayson Stark notes that the record for hits in a single playoff season is 25, set by Darin Erstad in 2002 and Marquis Grissom in 1995. It's possible Braun will have as many as ten more games to get there. He's also set a postseason record by reaching base safely in the first inning of eight straight games.

Jerry Hairston Jr's multi-hit games are a little more unusual. Mark Bowman of MLB.com talked to him about his big game and clutch slide to score the Brewers' second run last night.

Other notes from the field:

Here are last night's home run trot times, via Larry Granillo of Baseball Prospectus:

Hitter Trot time
Allen Craig 20.56 seconds
Matt Holliday 25 seconds

The Brewers and Cardinals continue the series with Game 5 tonight, and Mike Bauman of MLB.com has the preview. Zack Greinke is scheduled to take the mound for the Brewers tonight, and Jeff Passan of Yahoo took a hatchet to him. Grant Brisbee of Baseball Nation says Greinke is the most underrated overrated pitcher ever. Todd Rosiak has quotes from Greinke's press conference yesterday on postseason umpiring, home/road splits and more.

Mark Kotsay started and batted second for the second straight day yesterday, playing right field in place of Corey Hart this time and going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Jon Heyman says he's "not diggin" Ron Roenicke's sudden urge to start Kotsay on back to back days. Meanwhile, Kotsay hit a foul ball last night that hit Debbie Attanasio, Mark's wife. I haven't heard otherwise, so I'm assuming she's ok.

If you're still angry about the decision to play Kotsay on back-to-back days (or at all), Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball has a shirt you may be interested in. If you don't have matching t-shirts, the occupation is going to look pretty amateur.

Even though he wasn't asked about it, Ron Roenicke continued to defend his decision to start Mark Kotsay in Game 3 yesterday. I guess it's good to know he's still thinking about it. Michael Hunt of the JS says Roenicke deserves credit for making the right moves last night.

If you're feeling like you've seen this Brewer postseason before, you're not entirely wrong. Over at On Milwaukee, J. Scott Loomer of Tweets from 1982 had a story on Tuesday looking at the similarities between this series and the 1982 Fall Classic, and has another today as the coincidences become even more eerie.

Of course, not everyone is enjoying it. Bradley Woodrum of FanGraphs says the Brewers and Cardinals are "perhaps the two least-qualified World Series contenders in a long... long... long time." Looks like someone's craving a little more East Coast in his postseason.

Looking ahead, this series is giving potential free agent suitors an opportunity to watch Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols in a head-to-head matchup. Jon Heyman has a look at how the two first basemen's postseason performance could impact their offseason plans. Bill Glauber of the JS thinks both first basemen should stay where they are.

Lance Berkman didn't start last night's game but singled in a pinch hit appearance in the ninth. Before the game he was named NL Comeback Player of the Year.

In the minors:

  • Baseball America is reporting that Mike Rivera has elected to become a minor league free agent. Rivera appeared in one game as a Brewer this season and 61 more for AAA Nashville.
  • Logan Schafer and Scooter Gennett were both in action in Arizona yesterday, while Caleb Gindl made another start in Venezuela. You can read about their performances and more in today's Winter League Update.
  • The Brevard County Manatees are selling game-worn jerseys from the last two seasons.

The Brewers were winners yesterday both on the field and at the box office: Adam McCalvy talked to Brewer COO Rick Schlesinger about the financial benefit of being guaranteed at least one more home playoff game.

Unfortunately, the Brewers' continued success isn't beneficial for everyone: The Milwaukee Admirals' home opener is tonight and will go head-to-head with NLCS Game 5.

Around baseball:

Astros: Removed catcher J.R. Towles and pitchers Alberto Arias and Jose Valdez from the 40 man roster. Towles and Arias will be free agents.
Diamondbacks
: Released pitcher Juan Gutierrez.
Mets
: Hired former A's manager Bob Geren to be their new bench coach.
Padres: Are expected to decline 2012 club options for pitcher Chad Qualls and first baseman Brad Hawpe.

Elsewhere in baseball yesterday, the Tigers picked up a dramatic 7-5 win over Texas to send the ALCS back to Arlington for Game 6. You know that and much more if you've read this morning's edition of Around the MLB Playoffs.

Longtime readers of the site are probably aware of one of my stranger superstitions: When the Brewers need a big win late in the season, I bake something with pumpkin. Yesterday I made a pumpkin cranberry bread pudding and, while the dessert wasn't very good, the resulting win was great. Thanks to 80badger for passing me a couple more pumpkin recipes to try this weekend.

Elsewhere in postseason traditions: Here are today's playoff puns.

Today in former Brewers: Kevin Kaduk of Big League Stew spotted a Greg Vaughn throwback jersey at Busch Stadium last night. For all we know, it might have been Vaughn.

Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time to cash in.

Drink up.

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