In a season that has seen 12 different starting pitchers for the Los Angeles Dodgers thus far, that’s the only way to describe how Randy Wolf put the starting staff on his back from the end of June until early September.
Wolf, in 14 starts from June 29-September 5, tossed 93.2 innings—good for an average of 6.2 innings per start.
That is a almost a full inning longer than the Dodgers’ team average as a staff, which is 5.7 innings per start.
Over the entire season, he leads all Dodgers' pitchers in innings pitched with 190. His single-season career high is 210.2 ('02 with Philadelphia).
In fact, he hasn’t lost a decision since Aug. 1, going 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA in that span.
Despite his recent brilliance, Wolf was sidelined for his last start, which was scheduled to be last Friday against the San Francisco Giants. Tonight, he will return to the mound for the first time in 10 days.
He missed time due to a hyper-extended left elbow that he injured during batting practice, but threw a bullpen session on Sunday during which he experienced no pain.
The success of Wolf has all come without a prototypical dominating fastball. Although he throws around 89-91 MPH, more than a guy like Jamie Moyer, he still works backwards and uses his stifling off-speed pitches to attack hitters.
With a big, looping curveball and a changeup to boot, Wolf pulls hitters out of their comfort zone and forces them to make adjustments in the middle of at-bats.
Overall, he has the seventh best opponents' average against in the Senior Circuit at .228.
Most notable has been the inability of left-handed hitters to produce against the crafty southpaw, as he limits them to a .146 batting average and just a .212 on-base percentage.
He takes a very different approach to lefties instead of using his normal backwards methods.
Rather than using his off-speed pitches to setup the fastball, he relies more heavily on four-seam fastballs on the outer portion of the plate early in the count, and then moves to the inside portion once he has the hitter leaning out over the plate.
Wolf is expected to be at full strength in game two of tonight’s series against the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates.
Last night, the Dodgers started the series off the right way by easily winning 6-2 behind a strong pitching performance from Jon Garland.
Tonight needs to be more of the same, with Wolf limiting the Pirates and working deep into the game.
Like I said yesterday, this series is important for Los Angeles because they must continue to take care of business and dominate the Pirates on all levels en route to a three-game sweep.
Colorado lost last night, dropping them to four games back in the NL West, and the Rockies battle with San Francisco once again tonight, making this the time for the Dodgers to step on the Rox throats and pull away with the division.
The magic number to clinch a second-straight NL West crown is now 11, meaning any combination of Dodgers’ wins and Rockies’ losses adding up to 11 will give LA the division title.
Additionally, the Dodgers have also pulled ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals for home-field advantage in the National League by one game. If the Dodgers stay on top of the NL, it would be the first time they had the best record in the league since 1983 (91-71).
But that issue may prove to be a non-factor unless the two meet in the NLCS.
As of right now, Los Angeles would face Philadelphia in the divisional series because they cannot face a team from within their division in the opening round. That means, unless the Florida Marlins or Atlanta Braves make a miraculous run to grab the Wild Card, the playoff scenario will not change for LA.
Not to mention they won’t have the home-field edge in the World Series, should they get there, because of the ridiculous All-Star game stipulation.
Check out the breakdown of games left for Joe Torre and the Dodgers and it’s easy to see why the time is now to end this tango with Colorado.
They will then wind down the season with a three-game tilt at home against the Rockies.
The NL West needs to be locked up by then, meaning the Dodgers must maintain this current four-game cushion in order to avoid a potentially devastating sweep in the final three days of the season.
So, now is the time for the Boys in Blue to kick some teams while they’re down and lock up this division.
PJ Ross is a Featured Columnist for the Los Angeles Dodgers