Tag:Ryan Theriot
Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:34 am
 

Napoli's double puts Texas one win from title



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers beat the Cardinals, 4-2, to take Game 5 of the World Series and a 3-2 lead overall.

Hero: Mike Napoli gave the Cardinals a huge scare in the bottom of the sixth inning, hitting what had a chance to be a three-run homer, but it nestled into Skip Schumaker's glove on the warning track. Disaster was averted, but only temporarily. In the bottom of the eight, Napoli came to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered a two-RBI double, putting the Rangers on top for the first time all game. Let us not forget that Napoli also gunned down Allen Craig on a stolen base attempt in the top of the seventh with Albert Pujols at the plate

World Series Game 5
Goat: Several choices here, but let's go with Tony La Russa. He said it himself earlier in the series when he was getting heaps of credit for his tinkering, that praise and blame is based upon the players. So it's only fair to note that he left in a left-handed pitcher -- Marc Rzepcyznski -- to face Napoli in that pivotal eighth-inning at-bat. La Russa is so in love with matchups he brought in a right-handed Ryan Theriot to bunt against left-handed Darren Oliver the previous inning.

Turning point: Napoli's double in the gap.

It was over when ... The final out was recorded. It was a two-run lead heading into the ninth, sure, but Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz had to deal with the Cardinals' 2-3-4 hitters. So by no means was the ballgame over until it was officially over.

Next: We shift back to St. Louis for Game 6 -- where the weather is supposed to suck (sigh). We'll be treated to a rematch of what was a brilliant pitcher's duel, and defensive display for that matter, between Jaime Garcia of St. Louis and Colby Lewis of Texas. The next Rangers win will be a championship, while the Cardinals need to win both to take the crown.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:37 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:22 pm
 

World Series Game 4: Clutch outing needed


By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 7:05 p.m. CT, Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas. Cardinals lead series 2-1.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- OK, so Game 3 gave us a bad call and an Albert Pujols barrage. That was it, right?

No, not exactly. For one thing, the Cardinals bullpen had to throw six innings while the Rangers was forced to work 5 1/3. With no off-days until after Game 5, a short start in Game 4 by either team would mean the bullpen is shot for Game 5. So it's up to Derek Holland of the Rangers and Edwin Jackson of the Cardinals to find a way to get deep into the game. Coincidentally, both have battled with command, control and inconsistency. They also both have the ability to completely lock down the opposition. Witness Holland's four shutouts this season or Jackson's 2010 no-hitter.

"Every now and then he has command problems, but when he's not having command problems, he's a quality pitcher," Rangers manager Ron Washington said about Jackson. "Our hands will be full tomorrow. I think a lot just has to do with us trying to make sure that we keep him in the strike zone. If we go to chasing his slider and chasing his fastball up in the zone, it could be a long night."

Holland, meanwhile, is looking for more than just saving the bullpen. He's looking to atone for last season's debacle in the World Series.

World Series, Game 3
"You know what happened. We can bring it up and everything. I went out there, threw 13 pitches, two for strikes," he said. "I feel like I've got a lot to prove after what happened last year, but it's obviously not going to take me out of my game or what I have to do for this next start."

So, yeah, the emphasis is on the fickle starters, at first. But if they can't get deep into the game, relievers like Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman, Lance Lynn and Fernando Salas will be forced into early action again. And, if that happens, the complexion of Game 5 changes.

PITCHING MATCHUP

Holland vs. Cardinals:
Holland has never faced the Cardinals. He is, not surprisingly, far tougher on left-handers than right-handers. Unfortunately for the Rangers, that really doesn't help much. It does turn Berkman to his inferior side, but he's not a terrible right-handed hitter. The only left-hander that started Game 3 was Jon Jay. He was held hitless, but the rest of the team put up 16 runs.

Jackson vs. Rangers: He's 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in seven career starts against the Rangers. Control has been a serious issue, with 22 walks in 47 innings. Of the current Rangers' starters, Jackson has trouble with many of them. Ian Kinsler is hitting .333 with two homers, six RBI and a 1.122 OPS in 20 plate appearances. Adrian Beltre is hitting .429 off Jackson (14 at-bats); Nelson Cruz .417 (12 at-bats). In all, current members of the Rangers own a collective .328/.392/.517 triple slash line off of Jackson.

LINEUPS

Cardinals Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Michael Young DH
5 Lance Berkman DH 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 David Freese 3B 6 Nelson Cruz RF
7 Yadier Molina C 7 David Murphy LF
8 Jon Jay CF 8 Mike Napoli C
9 Nick Punto 2B 9 Mitch Moreland 1B
SP Edwin Jackson RHP SP Derek Holland LHP


NOTES

• Holland's home ERA this regular season? 4.69. His road ERA? 3.39.

• Even though Ryan Theriot had an RBI single in Game 3, Tony La Russa puts Nick Punto back at second base. The likely reason? Punto is 3-for-5 with a home run in his career against Holland.

• Both pitchers have a penchant for piling up the pitch count, even when they get hitters out. There's always a chance either one -- or both -- is able to save the bullpen. It's just not very likely. Expect to see lots of scoring and bullpen innings again.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:35 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:04 am
 

Bad call, defense open door to huge inning



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It all started so innocently. Albert Pujols hit a rocket single to left field, but that isn't really surprising. Then Matt Holliday hit what should have been a double play. Had it been completed, the Rangers would have been facing Lance Berkman with the bases empty and two outs, trailing by just one.

But Ian Kinsler made an errant throw and Mike Napoli was ruled to have not tagged Holliday. Replays showed Napoli was correct, and that it was a blown call by first base umpire Ron Kulpa. Also note that Holliday was knocked off balance by the tag, and fell down as he crossed the bag. He doesn't usually just fall down when running through first base.

Here's a good GIF, courtesy of SB Nation:



And everything came unraveled from there.

World Series, Game 3
Berkman singled. David Freese doubled in one. The Rangers intentionally walked Yadier Molina. It was 2-0 at the time, and a decent deficit could have been salvaged. And then the defense faltered.

Mike Napoli, a catcher by trade, was playing first base. Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay hit a weak grounder to Napoli, who made an off-balanced, errant throw to the plate, allowing two runs to score. Ryan Theriot then followed with an RBI single.

Just like that, it was 5-0 Cardinals through 3 1/2 innings.

There were three mistakes in the Cardinals' half of the inning. Two by the Rangers' defense and one by the first base umpire. It's likely the home fans will mainly remember the one by the umpire, but should realize their defense needed to have a better inning, too. It's also worth mention that Kulpa was the umpire at second who made the great safe call on Kinsler's big ninth-inning Game 2 stolen base.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: October 19, 2011 5:14 pm
 

Theriot feels 'different' vibe in Cards clubhouse



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Prior to joining the Cardinals, shortstop/second baseman Ryan Theriot had been to the playoffs twice, but his ballclub was swept both times. So before the Cardinals started the NLDS this October against the Phillies, Theriot was 0-6 in career playoff games. Of course, that was with the Cubs, who haven't won the World Series since the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

Upon being traded to the Cardinals this past offseason, Theriot drew the ire of Cubs fans when he remarked that he was finally "on the right side of the rivalry."

The funny thing is, the 2008 Cubs were awesome. Seriously. If you don't remember, they were 97-64 and the top seed in the NL. Their offense led the NL in runs and OPS. Their pitchers led the NL in strikeouts and ranked third in ERA. But they just gagged in the playoffs, getting swept by the Dodgers and generally playing terrible baseball -- errors, no control from the pitchers, etc.

World Series coverage
It just makes one wonder if the Cubs were pressing. It was the 100-year anniversary of the last World Series championship and they entered the playoffs as heavy favorites at least in the NL, probably even the World Series.

Having experienced this and now experienced winning two playoff series for a ballclub that last won it all in 2006, Theriot's a good person to ask about the locker room feel for both clubs.

"It's just ... different," he said. "Over there (Chicago in '08) it was a given that we were going to be (in the playoffs). Here, we had to win almost every game down the stretch and didn't really have time to think about pressure."

Were the Cubs pressing, or feeling the weight of the world in 2008?

"I don't know about all that," he said. "It's just ... again, different here."

Does it feel easier to play in a city that's enjoyed so much more success?

"It's just a completely different atmosphere," he said again.

He wouldn't say anything more, likely out of respect for that 2008 Cubs team, but his continued emphasis on the word "different" spoke volumes.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 19, 2011 2:50 pm
Edited on: October 19, 2011 2:51 pm
 

World Series relievers vs. hitters



By C. Trent Rosecrans

Both the Cardinals and Rangers advanced to the World Series with a huge hand from their bullpens, so both bullpens are expected to be used often during the series.

St. Louis manager Tony La Russa likes to use match ups to his favor, relying on stats to decide when to use a reliever and which one to use. Octavio Dotel's mastery of Ryan Braun was part of the Cardinals' NLCS victory -- Dotel had struck out Braun six times in eight at-bats coming into the series and the two faced each other three times in the NLCS, with Braun striking out all three times. While the Brewers and Cardinals faced each other 18 times during the regular season, the Cardinals and Rangers have only played three times in the teams' histories, back in 2004.

While some free agents have moved, there are still many pitchers and hitters who haven't seen each other, giving this a true old-school World Series feel.

Here's a look at both team's primary relievers against the most important batters:

Cardinals relievers vs. Rangers hitters
Rangers Mitchell Boggs Octavio Dotel Lance Lynn Jason Motte Arthur Rhodes* Marc Rzepczynski* Fernando Salas
Elvis Andrus N/A 0-4 N/A N/A N/A 1-3 N/A
Adrian Beltre N/A 5-22, 2B, HR, 8 K N/A N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A
Nelson Cruz N/A 1-2, HR N/A N/A N/A 2-5, 2B N/A
Josh Hamilton* N/A N/A N/A N/A 0-2, 2 BB, K 0-3, 2 K N/A
Ian Kinsler N/A 0-5 N/A N/A 1-2, BB, K 4-6, 2 HR N/A
Mitch Moreland* N/A 1-1, HR N/A N/A N/A 0-1 N/A
David Murphy* N/A 0-1, K N/A N/A 0-0, 2 BB 0-4 N/A
Mike Napoli 1-1, 2B 0-3, 2 K N/A 0-2, 2K N/A 1-5 N/A
Yorvit Torrealba 0-2 1-1, 2B N/A 0-1, K N/A 1-1 N/A
Michael Young N/A 3-12, 2B, 4 K N/A N/A 0-9, 3 K 1-4, 2 BB N/A

Rangers relievers vs. Cardinals hitters
Cardinals Mike Adams Scott Feldman Neftali Feliz Mike Gonzalez* Mark Lowe Alexi Ogando Darren Oliver
Lance Berkman^ 1-3, 3B 3-9, 2B, 3 K 1-4, BB, 2 K 2-6, BB N/A N/A 4-6, BB
Allen Craig N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
David Freese 0-2, 2 K N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Rafael Furcal^ 1-6 1-2, 2B N/A 0-6, 2 K N/A N/A 2-9, 2B, K
Matt Holliday 1-5, HR 2-5, 2BB N/A 0-4, BB, 2 K 1-2, BB, K N/A 1-4, HR
Jon Jay* 1-2, 2B N/A F4 1-1 N/A N/A N/A
Albert Pujols 1-8, 2B, BB, 3 K N/A N/A 1-7, 3 BB, 2 K N/A N/A 2-6, 2 K
Nick Punto^ 0-0, BB 1-5, 2B, 2 BB, 2 K 0-1 0-1, K 0-2, BB N/A 0-8, 2K
Skip Schumaker* 1-3 N/A N/A 0-2, K N/A N/A N/A
Ryan Theriot 0-4, 2 K N/A 0-1 1-4, 2B, BB N/A 0-1 N/A
* left-handed
^ switch hitter

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @eyeonbaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: October 16, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: October 17, 2011 1:24 pm
 

World Series preview: Rangers vs. Cardinals



By Matt Snyder


Talk about your clashes in historical pedigree.

The St. Louis Cardinals franchise began all the way back in 1882 (as the St. Louis Brown Stockings). After having just won the 2011 NL pennant, the Cardinals now have 18 NL titles and 10 World Series championships -- looking to add No. 11 in the next week and a half or so. The history of the franchise is loaded with Hall of Famers and transcendent personalities, and the city is often said to be one of the best baseball towns in the country. Manager Tony La Russa has been playing bullpen matchups since before Al Gore invented the Internet.

The Rangers' franchise, on the other hand, has only been around since 1961 (as the Washington Senators -- they moved to Texas and became the Rangers in 1972). Prior to 1996, the Rangers/Senators had never been to the playoffs. Prior to last season, they'd only won one playoff game in franchise history. The only individual Hall of Fame plaque with a Texas Rangers cap is Nolan Ryan's. Sitting right in the middle of die-hard football country, Arlington hasn't exactly been romanticized as a baseball hot spot. Manager Ron Washington took his first managing job in 2007.

Full playoff coverage
Of course, history has absolutely nothing to do with this series. The players are the ones who will win this series, not the uniforms or any flags in the respective stadiums honoring the past.

The Rangers are now making their second consecutive trip to the World Series and there's no doubt they're a current baseball powerhouse. Anyone who watched Game 6 of the ALCS can attest that the fans are as great as anywhere, too, because Rangers Ballpark was rocking.

These two teams have lots of similarities, too.

Both lost an ace before the season even began. The Rangers lost Cliff Lee to free agency while the Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright to a torn UCL in his throwing elbow -- requiring season-ending Tommy John surgery. Both offenses feature several power hitters while the bullpens got stronger down the stretch on the strength of midseason acquisitions and some roster/role tinkering. And both teams have been scorching hot for the past six or so weeks.

Sure, the Cardinals late surge got lots of attention and rightfully so. It's because they were running down the Braves from a double-digit deficit in the NL wild-card race. But check this out:

Rangers' September record: 19-6
Cardinals' September record: 18-8

Rangers' October record: 7-3
Cardinals' October record: 7-4

So if you're going to argue for the hotter team winning the series, you're picking the Rangers -- not the Cardinals. Since a Sept. 10 loss to the A's, the Rangers are 21-5. To put that in perspective, that's a 162-game pace of 131 wins. To reiterate, the Cardinals are playing exceptional baseball right now and deserve all the credit they've gotten for the huge comeback in the regular season and run in the playoffs, but let's not be fooled into thinking they come in hotter than their Texas-sized opponent.

TEAM INFORMATION

Texas Rangers (host Games 3, 4, 5*)
96-66, AL West winner.
ALDS: Beat Tampa Bay three games to one.
ALCS: Beat Detroit four games to two.
Manager: Ron Washington
Offensive ranks: 3rd in R, 2nd in HR, 1st in AVG, 5th in OBP, 2nd in SLG
Pitching ranks: 13th in ERA, 12th in K, 5th in WHIP

St. Louis Cardinals (host Game 1, 2, 6*, 7*)
90-72, NL wild card winner.
NLDS: Beat Philadelphia three games to two.
NLCS: Beat Milwaukee four games to two.
Manager: Tony La Russa
Offensive ranks: 5th in R, 13th in HR, 5th in AVG, 3rd in OBP, 6th in SLG
Pitching ranks: 12th in ERA, 21st in K, 15th in WHIP

*if necessary
[Note: All rankings were regular season and for the entire MLB]

POSITIONAL BREAKDOWN -- WHO HAS THE EDGE?

Catcher: Mike Napoli vs. Yadier Molina


Big offensive advantage to Napoli here, but Molina can hit, too. Big defensive advantage to Molina here, but we've seen what Napoli can do behind the plate this postseason. This is a tough call for many reasons. We're weighing Napoli's power stroke (30 HR in 369 at-bats this season) against Molina's ability to completely eliminate the opposing running game. Ultimately, it's a toss up between two really good players.

First base: Michael Young vs. Albert Pujols


Young is a very good hitter. A great one at times, including most of the 2011 season. He just became the first player in LCS history to record two extra-base hits in one inning. He's gotten some noise in the AL MVP argument. It's just that he's not Albert Pujols in any aspect of the game.

Second base: Ian Kinsler vs. Ryan Theriot


Theriot's a scrappy singles hitter who makes lots of baserunning mistakes. He's not a defensive liability at second like he was at short, but he's still not much more than just an average player. Even if Skip Schumaker can return at full health, the upgrade is pretty minor. Kinsler had 32 homers and 30 stolen bases in the regular season and is far superior with the glove. 

Shortstop: Elvis Andrus vs. Rafael Furcal


Andrus is a solid defender and base stealer, but not a very good hitter. Furcal has provided St. Louis a bit of a power-speed combo atop the order since his acquisition. It's a really close call here, but Furcal seems to be providing his team more of a spark at this point in time. Things could easily change by the second inning of Game 1, but we're going Furcal by a nose for now.

Third base: Adrian Beltre vs. David Freese


A healthy Freese has been a monumental boost for the Cardinals' offense, especially as Matt Holliday has dealt with some injuries. Freese was a really good hitter in the regular season and absolutely exploded in the NLCS. Beltre can match and exceed his firepower, though. Beltre had 32 regular-season homers and then went yard three times in the clinching ALDS Game 4 at Tampa Bay. He's also a great defender. Before the NLCS, Freese was underrated, but let's not overcorrect based upon six games. He closed the gap, but is still slightly behind Beltre overall.

Left field: David Murphy vs. Matt Holliday


When healthy, Holliday is an elite player. He's starting to look healthy based upon the last few games, too, so this is an easy call.

Center field: Josh Hamilton vs. Jon Jay


Jay isn't a bad player by any stretch, but he's out of his league here. When Hamilton can keep himself on the field, he's one of the most feared sluggers in the league, and will also sell out his body to make a big defensive play (see Game 6, for example).

Right field: Nelson Cruz vs. Lance Berkman


We cannot discount the season that Berkman, the NL Comeback Player of the Year, put together. He was great, and especially valuable early in the season when Holliday was hurt and Pujols was struggling. But Cruz still almost matched his power production despite playing 21 fewer games in the regular season. In the playoffs, Cruz has been the best hitter in baseball, not to mention that he's a much better defender than Berkman. This one would be a toss up, but Cruz's hot hand pushes him over the top. Put it this way, Cardinals fans: What if you could trade Berkman for Cruz straight up for the series? You'd do it. Don't lie.

Designated hitter


The designated hitter for the Rangers is a mix and match thing. Young or Napoli can be used there, which would get Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba into the lineup. It's also possible Washington goes with Endy Chavez or Craig Gentry in the outfield and uses Murphy at DH. So, essentially, we're judging the bench here. For the Cardinals, the smart money is on Berkman being used as the DH, which then puts Allen Craig in the outfield. So what we're really judging here is which offense benefits more from being able to use a DH and, oddly enough, the NL team here does. Craig is a much better offensive player than Moreland, Torrealba, Chavez or Gentry. So the three games in Texas will actually favor the Cardinals in this one aspect of the game, however small it is.

Starting rotation: C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland vs. Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse


Both rotations have good ability yet have been shaky at times. Holland and Garcia particularly struggled in their respective LCS'. Wilson and Carpenter both pitched like aces at several points throughout the regular season, but the deciding factor here is that Carpenter has shown he can carry his team in a big game. Wilson, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 5.40 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in seven career postseason starts.

Bullpen: Neftali Feliz et al vs. Jason Motte et al


The fact that both teams won four of six games against their respective LCS opponents with zero quality starts tells you all you need to know about how good the bullpens are right now. The Cardinals' bullpen has significantly improved down the stretch, as Motte has stepped in as the closer -- despite not being "officially" named as such. Marc Rzepczynski has been a solid left-handed addition just as right-hander Octavio Dotel has gotten some really big outs. Especially after the NLCS, you have to say the Cardinals have a very strong bullpen right now. The way things have gone for Texas of late, though, it's even better. Scott Feldman and Alexi Ogando have proven to be an exceptional duo to bridge the gap from the starters to the potentially dominant Mike Adams and Neftali Feliz at the back-end.

Defense


Getting Furcal helped the Cardinals, as will being able to use Craig in right instead of Berkman when the games are played in Texas, but this isn't really a match. The two teams had virtually identical fielding percentages during the regular season, but that doesn't measure range. The advanced metrics that do measure range pretty heavily side with the Rangers here. If you just go by position, only at catcher and first base are the Cardinals clearly better. Everywhere else it's either debatable or definitely the Rangers.

PREDICTION

First of all, keep in mind all categories above aren't created equal. Having a slight edge at shortstop, for example, isn't near as important as having an edge in the bullpen. The position-by-position breakdown is just a snapshot at the different strengths and weaknesses of each team. Adding everything together, including the momentum and swagger heading into the World Series, the Rangers have a better offense, defense and bullpen. And while the Cardinals have been having all their happy flights, the Rangers haven't lost consecutive games since August 23-25. The Cardinals' run has been a great story and nothing would surprise us here, but we'll go with the St. Louis run ending when it runs into a more talented buzzsaw. Rangers in six.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 14, 2011 6:27 pm
 

Furcal wants Cardinals, but should they want him?

Rafael Furcal

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal has seen enough of St. Louis that he'd love to return in 2012 and beyond. The question is how much of a pay cut he'll be willing to take and if the Cardinals want him back.

"When I come here with Atlanta, or I come in with the Dodgers, I play those guys, I'm always in a big competition, and I love it here," Furcal said before Game 5 of the NLCS. "I love the fans and the players and everybody is on the same page and everybody wants to win. Who wouldn't want to play for one of the best managers in all of baseball?"

Furcal has been a definite upgrade defensively for the Cardinals, who had Ryan Theriot start 87 games at shortstop, resembling the statue of Ozzie Smith outside Busch Stadium than the Hall of Famer that patrolled the former incarnation of Busch Stadium.

However, despite hitting better than he did in Los Angeles (.197/.272/.248), Furcal hasn't lived up to his career numbers in either batting average (.282) or on-base percentage (.348), hitting .255/.316/.418 with St. Louis in 50 regular-season games and .200/.220/.325 in the playoffs. He has as many stolen bases as Lance Berkman and Yadier Molina.

Furcal will also turn 34 on Oct. 24, the scheduled day of Game 5 of the World Series. For a player who has based so much of his career on his speed, Furcal's age is a real concern. The Cardinals have a $12 million option for 2012, and that seems highly unlikely to be picked up. His three-year, $30 million contract runs out after this season and will likely be granted free agency.

Are the Cardinals better with Furcal than without him? Yep. And he could be a decent pickup, and he certainly wouldn't be the first player to resurrect his career playing for Tony La Russa, but in the end it comes down to the biggest question in the offseason -- is the price right?

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 13, 2011 11:30 pm
Edited on: October 14, 2011 12:32 am
 

Wolf gives Brewers a boost

Randy Wolf

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- There's still one more game in St. Louis, but the Brewers' 4-2 victory over the Cardinals on Thursday guaranteed the NLCS would return to Milwaukee this weekend.

Hero: Not much was expected of Randy Wolf -- so his allowing just two runs in seven innings, allowing the Brewers to hand the ball over to Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford to close the game out was huge -- and that may be an understatement. In a postseason where the Brewers starters not named Yovani Gallardo have struggled, Ron Roenicke has had to use his bullpen liberally -- and to not have to every make the trek to the mound in Game 4 could be a boost for the rest of Milwaukee's series.

Goat: Cardinals second baseman Ryan Theriot made a great play to start a double play ending the fifth inning, but in the next inning his error allowed he Brewers' fourth run to score. He also struck out with a runner on third and one out in the sixth inning.

Turning point: Jerry Hairston Jr.'s slide to score on Yuniesky Betancourt's fourth-inning was a thing of beauty -- and it tied the game. Hairston took off from second on Betancourt's grounder up the middle and was waved home as Jon Jay came up with the ball. Albert Pujols made a great relay after picking the ball up on the short hop and Yadier Molina had the plate blocked, but Hairston took a great angle to get around Molina and get one hand out to tag the plate just before the tag from Molina. 

It was over when … Yadier Molina swung over a curveball from Rodriguez to end the eighth inning. David Freese had singled with one out in the inning and advanced to second on Matt Holliday's groundout to second. Molina battled Rodriguez, fouling off four pitches, but couldn't get a piece of the seventh pitch of the at-bat, leaving the bottom of the Cardinals' order for Axford.

Next: Zack Greinke takes the mound for the Brewers against St. Louis left-hander Jaime Garcia at 8:05 p.m. ET in the last game of the series at Busch Stadium, but it won't be the last of the series as the Brewers' victory guaranteed the series would return to Milwaukee.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com