PHILADELPHIA - Randy Wolf said he has a lot of memories here (in Philadelphia) and a lot of good memories.
One of the things he'll never forget is the backing he got from the fans, especially the group known as the "Wolf Pack" who dressed up and sat in the same spot in the ballpark every time he took the mound.
"I always enjoyed pitching here," he said prior to Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Citizen's Bank Park. "The fans were always really great to me. But I think it's a lot of fun just being in a playoff game, an NLCS game against my former team. The fact that it's a rematch from last year makes it exciting."
Now, with his Dodgers team trailing the Phillies 2-1 in a best-of-seven series after Sunday night's 11-0 triumph by the NL East champs, it'll be up to Wolf to make sure his team doesn't face elimination with another loss when he faces Joe Blanton in Game 4 tonight.
"I've got to pitch my game and all that stuff that's a memory, you've got to block that out." he said.
And it will be one of his biggest challenges since he thinks about 1999 when the Phillies brought him up and the "Wolf Pack" was born.
"It was pretty incredible," he said. "I remember 1999 was my first start, against the Pirates I believe. It was my second home start, and there they were. I think there was like three or four guys. Didn't know them at the time, and I pitched a pretty good game, won the game, and from that point on, they were just there.
"The better I got, the more people were in the Wolf Pack. I always knew if I was having a bad game and I was in the fourth inning and there was only four guys there, I wasn't pitching very well. It seemed like if I was pitching well in the sixth inning, there was a whole bunch of people there.
"They are a great family. You know, they took me in and made me feel really welcome in what could be kind of a tough city. But they were great to me, and I appreciated all the support they've given me, even to this day. I still keep in contact with them, and they're a great group of guys. It's pretty awesome.
"I know they'll be here, but I don't think they'll be in costume. They're born and raised Philadelphians and they're Phillies fans first and foremost. I think for the sake of their own lives they'll keep that under wraps."
Wolf has pitched in Citizen's Bank Park three times. He didn't do that well the first time, but did better in his next two appearances.
"I think it's similar to pitching in Colorado, more so when Colorado didn't have the humidor," he said when asked about pitching here. "The best piece of advice I got was in 2000, and Terry Francona told me, the one thing you want to do in Colorado is be aggressive and limit your mistakes and not walk anybody. You might give up a home run, but you want to make sure it's a solo home run instead of a two run home run or a three run home run because you walked a couple guys. That's what I try to do here."
Wolf at one point, was scheduled to start Game 1 of the NLCS against the Phillies, but Joe Torre changed his mind and went with youngster Clayton Kershaw instead. If it bothered him, Wolf didn't show it when asked about it.
"I have a great opportunity in Game 4 to help this team win, and no matter what spot in the rotation you're in, it's important," he said.
"When you get to the postseason, you can't worry about what day you're starting because whether it's Game 1, 2, 3 or 4, all of them are important. You know, that's what I realize."
Even with a bunch of lefthanders in their lineup, the Phillies seem to be one of the better teams against lefties. So Wolf knows he'll have to be at his best.
"They have a very solid lineup, from top to bottom," he said. "You know, you've got to be really on your game against this lineup because not only do they have guys that hit the ball out of the park, but they have very patient hitters, as well.
"They could really run up pitch counts. They can foul off pitches until they get a mistake and then capitalize on that. And then you have the eight hole hitter, the Dodger killer Carlos Ruiz, who's been tough to get out.
"You get guys like Ibañez and Chase and Ryan Howard who really don't fall off much against left-handers. And I think that has to do with the quality of their approach to hitting, especially Ryan. He's got great opposite field power, and when a left-hander has that against another left-hander, he can really wait back on that fastball away, and he could drive it the other way and hit it out of the park."
So with the "Wolfpack" in disguise somewhere in the ballpark tonight, Wolf will hope he can pitch a lot better than he did in the first game of the LCDS against the Cardinals.
"Luckily I was able to make some pitches in some tough situations to minimize the damage because that first inning could have been four or five runs," he said. "I definitely didn't have my best game without a doubt."
Tonight, he's hoping he has better luck.