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Wily Wolf blows down house of Cards to level series

(Reuters) - The Milwaukee Brewers were able to capitalize on the subtle pitching of left-hander Randy Wolf to beat the St Louis Cardinals 4-2 on Thursday and level up the best-of-seven National League Championship Series at 2-2.

The visiting Brewers found themselves in an early 2-0 hole but rallied with two runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and another in the sixth to make full use of the good work on the mound by the soft-throwing Wolf.

Wolf mixed in a modest fastball as he beguiled Cardinals batters with an array of off-speed pitches as slow as 67 mph to keep them off-stride. He went seven innings, giving up six hits including solo home runs to Matt Holliday and Allen Craig.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched the eighth and John Axford closed it out in the ninth for the Brewers, who ensured that the series would return to Milwaukee for a Game Six on Sunday.

The 35-year-old Wolf, a 13-year veteran, who has a career record of 127-107, won for the first time in the postseason, rebounding from a horrid outing last week against Arizona.

"It was the biggest game I ever pitched in," said Wolf, whose 342 regular season starts had been the most of any active pitcher without a postseason win. "It definitely is the biggest win of my career."

Milwaukee tied the score in the fourth on doubles by Prince Fielder and Jerry Hairston and a line single to center by Yuniesky Betancourt that brought home Hairston, who scraped the fingers of his left hand across the plate as he eluded the tag with a fade slide away from the catcher.

Ryan Braun singled home Nyjer Morgan, who opened the fifth with a double, to put Milwaukee ahead and the Brewers added another run in the next inning when Rickie Weeks scored on a mishandled grounder off the bat of George Kottaras.

GOING HOME

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa tipped his cap to Wolf.

"We had a couple of chances to add a run but Wolf made outstanding pitches," La Russa said. "It's that close."

It was the first road win of the playoffs for the Brewers, who had a losing record this season as a visiting team and Major League Baseball's best mark at their Miller Park home.

"It's obviously huge," Braun said. "If we hadn't found a way to win a game on the road here, our season would have been over. Wolfie pitched great and it feels good to know we're at least going to get to go back home."

For Wolf, the win was a matter of personal vindication.

His last outing was a nightmare, as he gave up five runs in the first inning and seven runs in three overall in a 10-6 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks that leveled that divisional series 2-2 and set up a deciding Game Five.

"After that game in Arizona, my whole sanity depended on us winning that series," Wolf said.

"The day after the Diamondbacks start, I didn't eat or shower. I don't know if they call that depression, but it was tough to swallow.

"I was really thankful to be out there to pitch again."

Wolf, who was 13-10 this season, took advantage, spinning a masterful game as he struck out six batters and walked one.

"We're so happy for him," Braun added. "He's been one of our leaders all year. He's pitched so well for us. He came out and pitched the biggest game of his life in a huge situation for us as a team."

Friday's Game Five in St Louis will feature Zack Greinke on the mound for the Brewers against Jaime Garcia.

(Reporting by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by John O'Brien)

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