Considering recent developments, any time a Dodgers starting pitcher can leave the game under his own power, it's a good day.
Sunday was better than most for Randy Wolf. He took a one-hit shutout into the eighth inning, slugged one of three Dodgers homers plus an RBI double and led a 9-3 bounce-back victory over the D-backs after Saturday night's double misfortune, when the Dodgers lost an apparent win, and nearly lost starter Hiroki Kuroda, too.
"Wolf gave us the lift we needed after last night's game and we came off the trip on a good note," manager Joe Torre said, as the Dodgers snapped a three-game losing streak, finished the trip 3-3 and return home with a five-game lead in the National League West. "He did it all. What can I say?"
The emotional and physical blows suffered on Saturday night seemed to have no carryover effect on the Dodgers, who scored as many runs three batters into the game as they did the entire previous night.
Andre Ethier followed Matt Kemp's leadoff double and Orlando Hudson's single with his 24th home run off Yusmeiro Petit, who came into the game with a 5.87 ERA. Ethier had four hits, including an RBI double in the eighth.
Wolf knew what to do with the lead -- extend it. He did it himself, lining a two-run homer in the fourth inning, the fifth of his career. He tied career highs with three hits and three RBIs.
After Kemp's infield single, Hudson homered against his former teammates for a 7-0 lead through four innings.
On the mound, Wolf wasn't hesitant in the wake of the line drive Kuroda took off his head. Wolf struck out a season-high 10 (without a walk), five in a row at one point, and retired 20 consecutive batters between Ryan Roberts' first-inning single and Rusty Ryal's homer leading off the eighth.
"I definitely thought about what happened last night -- every pitcher thinks about it -- but you can't worry about it or change your approach," he said. "I thought about it, but I put it away."
Wolf is now 8-3 lifetime against Arizona and he has nine quality starts in his past 10 outings. He said he's happiest with the most recent three.
"I've been a lot more aggressive, pitching inside more with my fastball," he said. "I've had good success doing that and I'll stick with that. The last few days have been kind of rough for us. But we have a good team that's able to bounce back very fast and you need that. It's easy to focus on negative things and not move on, but we are good at moving on."
Despite the uncertainty of his starting pitchers for Monday (Charlie Haeger's first as a Dodger), Tuesday (Chad Billingsley returning from a hamstring) and Thursday (Kuroda is doubtful), Torre said he did not consider yanking Wolf early with a large lead and a low pitch count to bring him back on short rest in place of Kuroda on Thursday.
"We needed to use as few people as possible today," Torre said after making eight pitching changes in the first two games. "Give a starter a three-run lead and it keeps him from trying to be too perfect. That wears out a pitcher more than anything else. Randy was having an easy time and not expending energy. His pitch count was insignificant until the eighth inning."
That's when, as Wolf said, "all hell broke loose." It began with a home run off the bat of Ryal, who knocked Kuroda out of the game on Saturday. Wolf couldn't get out of the eighth inning and was charged with three runs in 7 2/3 innings, but the Dodgers' lead was insurmountable. Guillermo Mota got the last four outs.
"We got beat up pretty good today," said Arizona manager A.J. Hinch. "They came out swinging the bats early very well. Wolf was very tough early and even into late in the game until we got him for a few runs there at the end when we were down by nine. There's not a lot to say about this game, they just came out and beat us."
Ethier has career and team highs in home runs (24) and RBIs (80) and his average up to .281, a three-month high.