Randy Wolf would prefer not to have runners in scoring position. The goal is to avoid that scenario. But when runners do end up at second or third, ready to pounce home, that’s when Wolf can be less perfect.
In the pressure-filled situation of runners in scoring position, Wolf feeds off the aggression of hitters, greedily looking to drive in a run.
He’s turned hitters’ aggression into his advantage this season with the Buffalo Bisons. In four starts, opponents are hitting just 1 for 19 against the veteran lefthander in those situations.
Tuesday night, he kept Norfolk off the scoreboard as the Tides went 0 for 6 against Wolf with runners in scoring position.
It wasn’t until the ninth inning, when Chris Parmelee had an RBI single off reliever Colt Hynes, that either team got on the board. It turned into the only run of the game in the pitcher’s duel as Norfolk handed the Herd a 1-0 loss at Coca-Cola Field.
Wolf threw seven scoreless innings in the no-decision and was at his best when put on the defensive with runners at second base.
“You have to make better pitches. Also you’ve got to feed off the hitter’s aggressiveness,” Wolf said. “They’re trying to get that runner in. You have a little bit of room for error when they’re aggressive.
“The key is not letting them get in scoring position. I’d rather not have that. When it does happen, it’s about understanding hitters are going to be a little bit more aggressive. You don’t have to be as perfect. You can miss a little bit off the plate and they’re going to be swinging so try to use that to your advantage.”
Wolf knows how to turn situations into his advantage. The 38-year old carries the tag “journeyman” after playing with seven different Major League teams over 15 seasons. He has a career 133-120 record with a 4.21 earned run average in 382 big league games. He was a National League All-Star with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2003.
Last season he pitched in four different organizations. The Toronto Blue Jays signed Wolf as a free agent in March and he’s been an expected veteran presence in the Bisons rotation with three wins and a 1.57 ERA.
“He’s a crafty veteran. He mixes it up,” Bisons manager Gary Allenson said. “He’s one of those guys who lulls you to sleep and then when you’re thinking about getting something soft to hit he throws you hard and in. He keeps you off balance.”
Tuesday was the longest outing of the season for Wolf. He went seven innings throwing 96 pitches, which Allenson said would now be the norm for Wolf.
In those seven innings, he scattered six hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
“I was throwing strikes for the most part,” Wolf said. “My curveball was better today. I was able to throw it for strikes. That’s been a difficult thing for me to throw it for strikes when I need to. … Fastball location is always key. I’ve been pretty close in my first three outings and every time I’m out there I’m getting closer and closer to where I want to be. Today was a step closer.”
As far having the freedom to go to 100 pitches, Wolf said he feels fine physically and that it’s time to stretch out his starts.
“I think we’re at the point now where you take the training wheels off and you go seven or eight innings, 100 pitches,” Wolf said. “That’s kinda where it is physically and so far I’ve felt great. I’ve been bouncing back after every start. That’s the key being healthy and being able to do your work.”
While Wolf is a veteran of 15 MLB seasons, he’s counterpart for Norfolk was 22 year old Zach Davis, who entered the season as the fifth youngers player in the International League.
Davies took the no-decision, pitching 6 2/3 scoreless innings giving up five hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
“Tip my hat to the kid who started against us,” Allenson said. “He had guys overthinking in the batter’s box.”