This series against the St. Louis Cardinals is important to the Brewers for a lot of reasons. Aside from the obvious division race implications — in order for it to be much of a race, the Brewers probably need to sweep to close that gap in the standings — it could be argued that three of the four starters going for Milwaukee need strong outings to keep their spot in the rotation. Doug Davis is coming back next week, and someone’s going to have to get bumped, even if it is temporarily.
Randy Wolf made his case Thursday night, and even though his spot in the rotation is likely guaranteed due to his contract, he needed a strong showing after getting beat around by the Mariners in his last start. Wolf cruised through his first six innings before running into trouble in the 7th, finishing his night with a surpisingly encouraging line: 6.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Of his 94 pitches, 62 were for strikes. Look at that picture — even Ken Macha was impressed and/or pleasantly surprised.
Wolf’s had two big problems this year — lost velocity and no control of his curveball. Neither was a problem last night, as his fastball averaged 88.77 MPH (a couple ticks higher than his average velocity this year) and he threw 11 of his 19 curveballs for strikes, and three of those 11 were swinging strikes.
Tonight, it’ll be Chris Narveson‘s turn. As one of the guys who may be the most in danger of losing his rotation spot, Narveson’s task will be proving those eight shutout innings against the Mariners weren’t a fluke. Asking him for eight more scoreless against this Cardinals team might be a bit unrealistic, but how many people thought Wolf would only give up one run to the Cards last night? A 7-inning outing with one or two earned runs may be enough to add Narveson to the “safe” group, even if it wouldn’t be a good idea in my mind.