In case you haven't been paying attention, Michael Wacha is really, REALLY good at baseball. The 22 year old is in his first big-league season for the St. Louis Cardinals and after coming 1 out away from a no-hitter just 2 weeks ago, he came through with another masterful performance today.
Wacha earned the start in a must-win Game 4, showing the trust that manager Mike Matheny has in the rookie right-hander. Wacha had his fastball going early, and worked in some offspeed stuff to keep the Pittsburgh hitters off balance. Through the first 4 innings, Wacha retired 4 batters with the fastball, 3 with the changeup, two on a curveball, and one on a cutter. That's a nice job of mixing your pitches and keeping the other team guessing. Wacha's changeup is tremendous, and today was no exception; the Pirates struggled to find it all day as Wacha racked up 9 strikeouts.
Wacha actually had a perfect game going through 5 innings, but that ended with a leadoff walk to Russell Martin in the 6th inning. The Cardinals had just scored the first runs of the game in the top half of the 6th, so it was vital that he prevent the Pirates from responding. Wacha did exactly that - he retired a pair of consecutive pinch-hitters on a strikeout and a flyout before fanning leadoff man Starling Marte to keep the Pirates off the scoreboard (and the hit colulmn).
After a clean 7th inning, Wacha struck out Marlon Byrd to start the 8th but then found trouble facing former Vanderbilt standout Pedro Alvarez. Wacha fell behind Alvarez 3-0 and then grooved a fastball over the plate that Alvarez crushed into the right field stands. The no-hitter and the shutout were both finished with one swing of the bat, but Wacha did make some MLB Postseason history:
Wacha's night came to an end after walking the next batter, but the Cardinals then threw out the runner trying to steal 2nd and then reliever Carlos Martinez struck out Jose Tabata to end the inning. Closer Trevor Rosenthal made things a little interesting with a 2-out walk in the 9th inning, but he got Pirates' star Andrew McCutchen to fly out to preserve the win. The Cardinals head back to St. Louis for the deciding Game 5 against the Pirates on Wednesday, and they would face either the Dodgers or Braves in the NLCS should they prevail.
Wacha became the first Aggie to ever record an MLB Postseason history today, and there is no doubt that it will be the first of many, many more to come. What makes me so certain? Well, his line in his last 2 starts is a good place to begin..
Gig 'Em, Wacha, and Give 'Em Hell!!