Wolf takes matters into his own hands

Randy Wolf said he would take the early birthday gifts he gave himself on Friday night -- the seven-innings of one-hit ball and the two-run double he hit in the second inning of the Dodgers' 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium.

But Wolf, who won his third consecutive start on the eve of his 33rd birthday, wouldn't accept the title of staff ace.

"It's probably the most overused term for pitchers," Wolf said. "There are like four guys you can put in that category. They win 20 games every year and they have ridiculously low ERAs. That, to me, is more of an ace."

At the very least, Wolf has turned himself into the Dodgers' most reliable arm.

The Dodgers widened their lead in the National League West to 4 1/2 games, as Colorado dropped a 6-3 decision to San Francisco.

"We needed a win," said Wolf, who has a 1.99 earned-run average over his last three starts.

The only run charged to Wolf came when Ryan Theriot singled home Sam Fuld from second in the third inning.

Said Manager Joe Torre: "Right now, he's on a roll."

At the plate as well.

Wolf (8-6), who fell a triple short of the cycle in his last start, has a four-game hitting streak and is six for 10 over that span. Wolf has driven in 11 runs, the most since Fernando Valenzuela drove in as many in 1990.

"I'll take the luck," he said.

And the Dodgers will take his innings.

He has made 27 starts this season and is the only member of the rotation not to have missed a start. He has pitched a team-best 169 2/3 innings, moving him within an out of his next payday.

Wolf, who signed a deal with the Dodgers that included a $5-million base salary when the free-agent market collapsed this winter, can earn up to $3 million in incentives, starting with $500,000 for pitching 170 innings.

"I feel outstanding," Wolf said. "The past two years, as the year goes on, I feel stronger and stronger."

That didn't prevent Torre from letting Juan Pierre hit in his place in the bottom of the seventh. Wolf had thrown only 88 pitches.

Asked what he thought of Torre's call, Wolf replied, "They pay me to pitch. They don't pay me to manage. Those are the tough decisions Joe has to make."

Torre said the decision was made easier because of George Sherrill's presence in the Dodgers' bullpen.

"Now, with an eighth-inning guy, it's easier to make that decision," Torre said.

Sherrill pitched a scoreless eighth and recently struggling Jonathan Broxton threw a perfect ninth to record his 27th save. Broxton struck out Derrek Lee to end the game and complete the one-hitter.

"Broxton was good," Torre said. "His rhythm, the breaking ball in the dirt to Lee, that was early-season Broxton."

Broxton said he didn't feel significantly different than he had in recent weeks.

"I made better pitches," he said. "I got ahead of some guys."

The outcome let Wolf laugh about his error on the bases in the fourth inning. Forgetting how many outs there were, he passed Russell Martin around second when Rafael Furcal flied to left for the second out.

Wolf said he didn't have any birthday plans.

"After 21, it's all downhill," he said.



For The Record Los Angeles Times Tuesday, August 25, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction Dodgers: A photo caption in some editions of Saturday's Sports section said that Chicago Cubs center fielder Sam Fuld robbed the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez of a home run in the ninth inning of Friday's game. His catch came in the eighth inning.
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