Cardinals rookie Wacha handles PNC Park pressure in gem
During the pregame pitchers' meeting Monday in the depths of PNC Park, Cardinals pitching coach Derek Lilliquist asked Michael Wacha about the toughest environment he ever pitched in.
Several hours before the biggest start of his life, the 22-year-old Wacha reflected and said it was his start in the 2011 Tallahassee, Fla., NCAA Super Regional. Wacha described that as “hostile” but it was nothing like the 40,000 clad in black chanting his surname he encountered Monday.
Wacha helped pitch Texas A&M to the College World Series a little over two years ago, and he forced a deciding NLDS Game 5 on Wednesday in St. Louis, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning in 2-1 victory over the Pirates.
“I just tried to use (the crowd) in my favor,” Wacha said. “It kind of gives me adrenaline.”
The outing came after the rookie took a no-hitter into the ninth inning in his last appearance against the Nationals.
“I was like, this guy's going to get a no-hitter in the postseason,” teammate Carlos Beltran said. “That's unbelievable.”
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker said it was like facing Reds ace Mat Latos, only “with a better changeup.” The right-hander struck out Walker twice swinging on changeups. Four of his nine strikeouts came via the changeup, which has velocity separation and screwball movement. It plays off a mid-90s fastball. Wacha uses his 6-foot-6 frame to create downhill fastball plane and froze Andrew McCutchen with a pinpoint 95 mph pitch in the first.
Wacha didn't allow a baserunner until he walked Martin to begin the sixth, and he didn't allow a hit until Pedro Alvarez homered in the eighth.
Nearly as amazing as Wacha's start is that he is a Cardinal at all. He slipped to the 19th pick of the 2012 draft, a compensation pick for the Cardinals losing first baseman Albert Pujols. He was selected 11 places after the Pirates drafted Mark Appel, who went unsigned.
Wacha is yet another example of the Cardinals' uncanny ability to draft and develop amateur talent under general manager John Mozeliak.
“In April I start to get prospect updates, and Wacha's name came up and I was originally told, ‘He won't be there,' ” Mozeliak said. “Each week we got closer to the draft I was told, ‘He may be slipping.' ”
Wacha overpowered minor league competition late last season, and this spring training he was even better. Wacha allowed one run over 242⁄3 innings in Florida.
“I think he was the best pitcher in spring training, anywhere. He was incredible,” Game 5 starter Adam Wainwright said. “His delivery is so unique, and his arm slot is very high. It comes in from a different angle. It's very steep and hard to square up. But with that great delivery and great stuff, he has great makeup. He's not scared of anything.”
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Tuesday’s scouting report: Red Sox at Pirates
- Sunday’s scouting report: Cubs at Pirates
- Pirates notebook: Holdzkom’s wild ride continues
- Pirates notebook: Morton to start Tuesday against Red Sox
- Biertempfel: In wild-card game, Cole must get call
- Pitt notebook: Expanded game plan likely awaits Iowa